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Silmfic: "Five Bells"

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Silmfic: "Five Bells"

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feanor fall
This series of vignettes was written to satisfy the Five Things challenge proposed by heartofoshun for the SWG's fifth birthday celebration. I wanted to do this challenge since Oshun first suggested it months ago but had trouble dredging up an idea. Just as I was beginning to angst about coming up with nothing, then this idea floored me, and I wrote parts of this piece mentally in the morning and committed it to paper pixels that afternoon.

"Five Bells" considers the death of Míriel Þerindë from five different perspectives. Given the subject matter, I've rated it for Teens over at the SWG, since it deals with death and dark themes. (The latter should be a default warning for my writing by now; I should warn when a story doesn't contain dark themes.)

As always, comments are welcome here, over on the SWG, or on Many Paths to Tread.

Five Bells

I.

The bell tolled, and for a moment, all of Tirion held its breath. Then life resumed.

The towerkeeper's son felt for the floor with his toes and eased down. He paused, as his father had instructed, and waited for the sound to subside before he would leap to let it toll again. It would happen that his father was away in Alqualondë, but the King's messenger wouldn't hear of waiting, so with a pounding heart, the boy had set to do the task himself.

Behind him, his little sister squatted upon a broad windowsill and ate bread with jam and watched the light from the Mindon scrape a thin silver crescent on the sideward bell before it swung downward again and resumed its normal coppery hue in the shadows of the tower. "What does it mean?" she asked.

"I don't know," said the boy, trying to keep the breathlessness from his voice. He wiped the sweat from his hands on the back of his trousers.

"The last time it rang--"

"Was when the Prince was born, yeah."

Below the tower, the boy could hear the faint sound of cartwheels resuming their motion, merchants crying their wares once more, everyone having paused to hear the bell, wondering what it meant. Five chimes, the message had said: in Telperion's fifth hour, the herald would shout his news from the steps of the palace, and his words would tumble down the side of the mountain, carried upon the tongues of those who would climb to hear him, and into the ears of all of Tirion by morning.

"Maybe there is to be another prince," said the girl in the implacable, hopeful voice of a child.

But, for many months now, there had been no word of the Queen.

"Maybe," answered her brother with the distracted voice of one now grown beyond hearing the nonsense of a child. He swallowed a deep breath of air, crouched, and leaped. He felt his hands close on the rope and let his weight turn the bell on its side, sending its somber voice over the city.

II.

The bell tolled, and for a moment, all of Tirion held its breath. Then life resumed.

Finwë's fingers were spread across his eyes, and he was trying without much success not to be ill. What had come up his throat with the first tolling of the bell he had swallowed again, but the acidic taste remained. What torment, that sound! How had he remained so long ignorant of it, hearing it whenever an announcement was to be made? Once, at Cuiviénen, he had fallen from a high branch and flat upon his back to the ground below. The reverberations of the impact throughout his bones had been much like the sound of that bell.

Tonight, during Telperion's fifth hour, the pronouncement would go out to the city. With each toll of the bell, the knot sealing the fate of his wife--and his fate with hers--tightened till it would not be unwoven, even by Vairë's silver fingers.

The silence swelled to fill where the sound of the bell had been. Growing braver, Finwë drew his fingers from his eyes and carefully straightened. Swallowed around the seeming obstruction in his throat. And then was sick.

Outside his door, the cautious voices of his counselors moved in upon the silence. Finwë retched silently, his hands framing his fevered face between his knees, hot tears permitted by his illness to ease from his eyes.

III.

The bell tolled, and for a moment, all of Tirion held its breath. Then life resumed.

In his playroom, Fëanáro sat with his hands resting upon the wooden horses one of his father's lords had carved for him. He was sleeping--well, not exactly sleeping, but if he didn't leave his hands upon his toys, the nursemaid would believe he was sleeping and make him nap, which he loathed. In fact, his eyes were open, unseeing, and his mind played far from this city, this room, these toys. He wasn't sleeping. The bell disturbed him, but only slightly. In the place where he was, he saw the sound of it wavering across the air from all directions, converging upon him. At the head of each thread of sound was a man upon a horse, undulating gently at a canter. Each man carried a shimmering banner of a slightly different hue, beating the air behind him.

His father told him once that, on the day he was born, his mother had scarcely pressed her first kiss to his brow before the "air was alive with the bells"--those were his father's words. He remembered them well, he told Fëanáro. The towerkeeper hadn't even waited for the bell to fall before pulling the rope again, so great was his excitement at the messenger's tidings. This time, there was space between the tolls of the bell. Fëanáro could hear the clop of a horse's hooves in the street outside, moving at a canter.

As the sound subsided, the messengers alighted on his arms. In his imagination, the rustle of silk against his arms became the tiny hooves of their horses. They began their climb to whisper their news. He strained his ears to hear what they would say.

IV.

The bell tolled, and for a moment, all of Tirion held its breath. Then life resumed.

Upon Taniquetil, the bell was out of earreach of even the sharpest sentinels, but Indis felt it nonetheless as an increasing heaviness in her heart. That morning, a letter had arrived from Tirion; briefly, she had seen Finwë's seal flash past in the messenger's hand. A female, disregarded except as an object of beauty much like a throw pillow, to be carefully arranged and admired and lost into the background, she gathered details about the world around her in whispers and glimpses. Too, she had pressed her ear to Ingwë's door, listening as he conferred with her father after the arrival of the letter. She wished she hadn't.

Queen Míriel was dying.

Although that wasn't precisely the word for it. Ingwë had read Finwë's words to express what, exactly, transpired with the Noldorin queen, but even those had been awkward, wrought without the usual Noldorin skill and heavy even when read in Ingwë's fair voice. Queen Míriel had chosen to relinquish life for weariness. Indis failed to fully understand.

She had forgotten Finwë, or so she thought. Gone were the days when he had often climbed the road to Valmar and filled the King's hall with voice louder than permitted by the careful grace of the Vanyar. Laughter had seemingly perched ever upon his tongue. Indis had wished him well at his marriage with full sincerity. Of course he had chosen Míriel; he had never even seen Indis but from afar at feasts. That he was content with his choice rang in his laughter and brightened his eyes.

But this--had she the gift of foresight, Indis indulged the fantasy of arresting his progress across the hall when he'd arrived, laughing, long ago to announce his betrothal to Ingwë, clasping his feet, whispering the bitter words of a harbinger: She will forsake you.

She ached with pain for the Noldorin king, with whom she'd never even spoken but had long loved. Around her, the palace bustled, but the news carried by the bell would arrive soon enough, and those of the royal house would be off to Tirion to offer their condolences. She needn't rehearse her tears; they dropped unceasing from her eyes.

V.

The bell tolled, and for a moment, all of Tirion held its breath. Then life resumed.

For the moment anyhow. Estë's maidens fanned the fevered body of Míriel Þerindë. Briefly, she had shown signs of waking, when the bell had tolled for the fifth time, as though reconsidering her choice with the finality of the fifth bell summoning her people to hear of her death. She had drawn a quick breath as though pinched. It held, her breast slightly lifted. The maidens fanned faster.

Her thoughts were a tumult of agonies. There was no room for consideration of Finwë, even Fëanáro. Her body was failing her as the bodies of the Eldar were not supposed to do. Her blood coursed hot, then cold. Pain sang along her bones. With each beat, her heart was wrung of blood with the same labor as a rock was wrung of water and then lay in her veins like lead. Her spirit dashed against these confines with the same desperate determination as a caged bird, unable to find release, be it through freedom or death.

Námo came along beside her. The fans fell to the maidens' sides as his bloodless hand pressed Míriel's mouth. Some of the maidens turned away. Others' curiosity compelled them to stay, watching with eyes stretched wide.

Míriel's breast collapsed and did not rise again. Her gown showed the skeletal outline of her ribs. Even the watchful among the maidens barely saw her panicked spirit flee.

"It is done," said Námo. The last of the reverberations flattened into silence.





This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

http://dawn-felagund.dreamwidth.org/250851.html
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