Reunion by Tanis

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The forest warned me long before the hoof beats of the company were within range.  I could hear it in the plodding pace of their return.  Feel it in the discordant jarring thump of his ungainly dismount.  See it in his eyes when he brought the remainder of his patrol into the Hall of Council. 

I can almost touch it now that we are alone in his chamber.  Acting as equerry, he lets me remove the unstrung bow to rest on its pegs on the wall, unbuckle the finely tooled quiver, strip off the filthy tunic.  He is covered in black gore from head to toe and will not sit on the bed when I prod him that way.  He drops instead to a low stool, and removes the boots that look as if he has been wading in orc blood, refusing for the first time, my services.

The shirt defeats him.  His nimble fingers are as stiff as the just removed boots and he drops his hands, raising his head to look at me as though he is an elfling again, faced with an unmanageable task. 

I want to put my arms around him as he rises slowly, comfort him, assure him that this awful night will pass, that dawn will follow, but he is grown now and no longer affords me the comfort of comforting him in that manner. 

He does allow me to manipulate the small, ivory buttons down the front of his equally filthy shirt.  He has not said how or why, but his draw fingers are raw and bleeding.  And I do not ask, though where he found arrows enough to accomplish that is beyond my ken.  It would have required a lengthy period of nearly continuous shooting to inflict such grievous hurts, for we elves are sturdily built despite our sometimes deceptive slenderness, particularly in the case of my son. 

There is no scold, no refusal, no negation of my rights as a father to bathe and anoint his wounds in the bath.  Not even a token resistance when the pitcher of hot water cascades over his head.  It is bowed already, and bows still lower as I sink my fingers into the filth that is his hair, freeing the warrior’s braids he wears with such pride, rinsing away the dried blood that has momentarily blackened the bright, flaxen strands.  He is somewhere else, his fëa barely tethered to Arda this night. 

The sharp denial I am expecting, after coaxing him to sit on the stool near the fire and tentatively beginning an ages old ritual he used to love with his mother, does not materialize.  The gilded profile turns with languid torpor to look at me over his shoulder, then turns again toward the doors open onto the dark balcony.  He has heard the deeper notes of his Song and is attempting to bring their cacophonous assonance into harmony with the lyric melody he has known for this short time he has inhabited Arda Marred.  He has seen barely two centuries of life; he is too young to know this enemy.  Too young to have it harvesting his unspent youth. 

He has touched the plague of all elves.  He has met weariness, but it will not overcome him, for he is bold and while his destiny may be shaped, it is not yet written.  

The comb glides through the golden strands in this childhood ritual from which I was excluded two centuries ago.  It is enough now – in the moment – for both of us. 



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