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Akallabeth in August
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Yet such was the cunning of his mind and mouth, and the strength of his hidden will, that ere three years had passed he had become closest to the secret counsels of the King; for flattery sweet as honey was ever on his tongue, and knowledge he had of many things yet unrevealed to Men.

The Last Temptation by Fireworks

“Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice: It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”
-William Jennings Bryan

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Even after five years since he had left Andúnië to make Rómenna his home, Anárion always felt a wave of homesickness every time his family's ships docked into port. The why of it was not easily explained, for he had always been fond of Rómenna with its winding streets and strong scents, its people's leisurely ways, and the murmur of the sea lulling the heart wherever one went. Things had changed since he was a boy, true enough; but, he refused to acknowledge that the ways of Rómenna had changed much--at least, not yet.

"But they are wont to," his grandfather, Nuriandil, would be quick to remind him. "Too much animosity now, and the King's Men still refuse to see why the Faithful would have been thrust here, out of all places in the island. What they want is to breed trouble, and trouble will breed easily enough: everyone mistrusts everyone. When friends are pinned against each other over strange loyalties, there is but little to do."

Anárion knew the truth of that, but his natural steadfastness could not comprehend how one people could so easily allow themselves to be torn asunder. For a while men would toy with the forbidden, but deceit and darkness could not always hold a man's heart. Once a man saw for himself the evil fruits of the path he was pursuing, was he not wont to change it? It held to reason!

But, neither of his grandparents saw things as he did, and both warned him in stern terms to guard his heart as zealously as ever, lest they ensnared him too.

Anárion knew better than to boast of his immunity to temptation, especially the current ones of wealth and power. Great men were as prone to fall as lesser ones; what he did know, as certainly as he knew his own name and that of his father, was that he could not lay idle when so many people were erring the way.

The way was clear in his mind: like his fathers before him, he remained Elf-friend to the end. But, as a man--and as a man who was first learning to see and recognize the suffering that so much excess had brought--he could see the lure of the other side, and why so many succumbed to it. Which was why he believed, like his grandsire, Amandil, that there was always something for their family, something for himself, to do to help stem the tide until they all changed their ways, or help came.

That the Dúnedain would change their ways seemed every day more unlikely. As he waited for his brother's ship to finally make berth, he could see and hear the throng around him, all full of naught else but the King's revels that whole week, to mark the Summer rites celebration. What used to be the Erulaitalë had turned into nothing more than an excuse for drink and revelry. The worst of it was that, if his family was to maintain appearances, they all had to attend. And, what was more, appear cheerful.


The familiar tenor of his brother's voice reached him amid the crowd. He descried Isildur as he jumped on deck from the mast, waving at him. Anárion rushed to his family's dockyards, anxious to help however he may, but there was nothing for him to do, for Isildur had allowed his second-in-command, Ciriandil, to make the maneuver, and thus freeing himself sooner to alight and join him.

"You have turned lazy since I left, brother!" Anárion said, slapping Isildur in the back once they had greeted each other and had made their way back to the streets. "Or you can hardly wait to be dancing in the streets, as this merry crowd here."

"Neither," Isildur said, forcefully slapping back. "Though the temptation of dancing may prove overwhelming, I think I may hold back for an hour or two. Have you seen him?"


"Well, this King from Middle-earth! Sauron!"

Anárion's hold on his brother's forearm tightened. "Is that why you are here two days early? To see that flatt--"

"Hush!" Isildur cried, steering Anárion away deeper into the crowd. "Truth is not for all ears, brother. You, city-lad, should know that best."

"Forgive me, Isildur, but if you were to succumb to that honeyed tongue, I would fight you to the teeth until you saw sense."

"I know better than to trust a vaunted enemy, Anárion. Which is why I am so curious to see this one. For all his bluster, Pharazôn seems rather foolish to me."

"No news there, but I think the danger is worse now. Worst, at that. There is something about that man..."

"So you have seen him!" cried Isildur, as he let himself be steered by Anárion along the market's cobbled streets. "What is he like? Come now, Anárion!"

Anárion bit the inside of his lip, as he always did when he felt impatient or frustrated, and held back a grunt. "It would be too hard to describe him to you, so you will have to wait and see--"

"Describe who?"

A familiar grin met him head on, but it was his brother who reacted first.


In their eagerness to get out of the market's busiest corner, they had not been very attentive, almost colliding with their good friends, the sons of Erador.

"Where to so fast, friend?" cried Emeldil as he embraced Isildur. "If we had planned to meet this afternoon, it would not have happened quite as neatly as this."

For his part, Emeldil's brother, Eranion, reached for Anárion and clasped arms with him.

"I hope," Eranion said, "that if we engage your company for today, that still means that you both will dine with us tomorrow." Then, shifting eyes to Isildur, "And your parents as well. I understand you expect Elendil and Amandil some time tomorrow?"

"Aye. I came a day earlier, for I needed to satisfy my curiosity on one particular count."

"You are not alone there," said Emeldil, snorting. "Did you take a good look around you when you arrived? The place looks like a sheep-yard, rather than shipyard. He is impressive, to be sure."

"So you have seen him too?"

Anárion grunted at his brother's eagerness, which made Eranion laugh.

"Worry not, my friend. Emeldil is as eager to discuss him as is Isildur. We shall let them get to it while we play a game or two, eh? Was is it going to be this time: a contest of sport, or intellect?"

"I will let you have your pick, since I won last time."

"Easy there, that was a tie!"

"Not by the rules," Anárion said, feigning sternness, but rather amused; it was always easy to feel at ease with Eranion.

"Whence were you going, Anárion? Have you any plans for today?"

Anárion shook his head. "I was just leading Isildur back towards home, trying to keep him away from the streets today. He is both strong and cunning, but pickpockets are cunning, too, and need their strength less. I was just aiming for a quiet afternoon spent in conversation with Isildur. There is much to tell."

"Come with us to the beach," Eranion suggested. "It should be nice and private; everybody seems to be here, anyway."

"If it is all right with Isildur, I should like that very much." Anárion said. "Should we set out now? What were you doing here? Were you waiting for something?"

Eranion shrugged his shoulders. "Just Wen. She had placed a dress on order for the celebrations and we came with her to retrieve it--we were not about to let her come out here by herself on any account. She should be out any minute."

At the mention of Elenwë, Anárion saw Isildur cast a quick, sidelong glance at himself, which he tried to overlook to no avail. Once he had seen it, it made him irritable and self-conscious. There was no way of getting out of the trip to the beach now, even if Elenwë should be there also.

"How is Elenwë?" asked Isildur, making himself oblivious to Anárion's discomfort. "I saw her the other day; she was in Andúnië a month or so ago."

"She has not been back two weeks," said Emeldil. "She was gone too long this time, if you ask me--"

But, just then, the lady in question came out of the establishment, another young woman in tow.

"Let us go. Now," she said, brushing past them, sparing one quick--and Anárion thought, slightly alarmed--glance at himself.

Without question, they all marched out right behind her; but, soon enough, the reason for their departure became apparent. A few other people were coming out and started screaming at them.

"Be quiet and do not look back," Elenwë said.

"I am a Númenórean!" the girl cried, stalling. "I have a right to defend myself when I am accused and discriminated against!"

Anárion could see Elenwë's arm tighten on her friend. "Yes, you do, but do think well where you make use of your rights. It is not worth to insist on them in front of an angry mob."

"They can hardly be called rights if I have them at some times and not at others!"

Elenwë looked back, pleading; it was becoming difficult to drag a feisty friend out of trouble and, behind them, the shouts of the crowd were becoming louder.


"Elven trash! Do not come back!"

"Not even with money!"

Yet somebody else was crying, "That was the lady Elenwë, you fools!"

"I would not be back, even if this were the last store in Elenna!" the lady cried to the mob behind them, trying to shrug off Elenwë's restraining hands.

"Please," Elenwë urged her friend, but her glance turned back and met briefly with his.

That was enough for him. Stepping forward, he took the lady by her free arm, urging them both to keep on at a faster pace. The lady hesitated, looked up at him, then at Elenwë, but Elenwë still moved on and, seized as she was, the lady could not but comply.

They walked a while, Anárion leading them out of the Market through a few shortcuts that drew grunts from the men behind him, making it painfully clear that he would be called upon to explain how he had become acquainted with some of those streets. It would be a hard call to come up with a feasible excuse, as he had never thought he would be in such a pinch as to make it necessary for him to deliver one, and he cursed himself for his carelessness. But then he glanced beside him to where Elenwë still held on to her friend, moving on single-mindedly, without so much as glancing at him. What would have happened if he had not been there to help? Her brothers were there, but it may not be too much conceit if he thought that he had been there for a reason and was glad of it. With a hint of worry, he realized that, if he were in that same situation again, he would do the same thing.

He could not tell how much they had walked but, eventually, the women began to drag along, and he felt a tug at his sleeve.

“I can walk by myself now.”

He turned to meet the gaze of the lady they had rescued, and was surprised to find that she did not seem grateful nor relieved, only profoundly angry. The lines of her face were beautiful and delicate, but marred by the frown that creased her forehead and the purse of her lips. Her cheeks were rosy from the walk, and a fine coat of sweat dotted her countenance.

Before he complied with her request, he searched for Elenwë’s approval, which made the lady laugh, and made him bite the inside of his lip for his foolishness.

“I am perfectly capable of choice, thank you very much, both of you. I do not need to be discussed as though I had lost my sanity.”

“No insult was intended, lady,” he said.

“I am certain not, lord Anárion.”

“You know me?”

She laughed again, a nice tinkling of bells that would have been pleasant if it had not dripped with mockery.

“The lord Anárion, son of Elendil?” A quick glance at Isildur, “And his brother? You would be hard-pressed to find someone in the whole island who does not know either of you. I did not know you had such prominent friends, Elenwë, or else I would have been more prone to take your hints before.”

“Anárion and his family have been good friends for many years and many generations of our families, Lassilenwë,” Elenwë said, averting her eyes. “We will walk you home.”

“I should think I am perfectly capable of finding my own house.”

“Not for your sake, but for mine. It would not be right to leave you alone after what happened.”

“Nothing would have happened if you had not intervened,” the lady Lassilenwë said, advancing one step on Elenwë, which made both her brothers advance on her in turn.

“Hold one moment,” Emeldil said. “From what I saw, my sister saved you from a beating, or worse. Those pigs would not have cared that you are a woman.”

Lassilenwë looked up at Emeldil, defiant, drawings hands immediately to hips. “Let them come! My father has friends that can defend me from King’s Swine!”

Once more, Elenwë stepped up and pressed a gentle hand on Lassilenwë’s shoulder.

“We are friends, and that is why we stepped up to help.” She cast a glare at her brothers, it seemed to Anárion, to make them retreat. “I apologize if I made matters worse, but I thought it best to run away this time than to risk making a scene that would help nobody. Sometimes, one must pick one’s battles.”

"And be branded a coward! My father did not raise me to run away at the merest difficulty," she said, accompanied by a meaningful glance at Elenwë. "I am a Númenórean and have some dignity!"

Anárion could have said a thing or two about that, but Elenwë's eyes were threatening anybody who dared interfere.

"It is precisely your Númenórean pride," Elenwë said without any trace of amusement, "that should prevent you from engaging in a market brawl."

At that, Lassilenwë seemed rebuffed. She huffed and looked about herself and, seeing herself outnumbered, stalked away, Elenwë following close behind, then the four of them.

When Lassilenwë realized that they were all coming behind, and that Elenwë did not need her lead to find her way, she asked, “Do you know where I live?”

Elenwë smiled and nodded.


Another artless smile. “I have seen you before. I think I know where your house is.”

Anárion noticed the color that sprang to the lady’s face. “Since we had to relocate,” she offered by way of explanation, “Father has not been able to purchase adequate dwellings.”

“Why, I thought your house perfectly adequate,” Elenwë said, matter-of-factly. “You have a lovely garden; do you tend it yourself?”

Anárion felt a surge of pride—undeserved, but pride, regardless—at the tactful way Elenwë had steered the talk away from painful subjects and into everyday matters that Lassilenwë could handle in her present state.

After a longer walk than he had anticipated through some of the most idiosyncratic streets in Rómenna, they arrived at a small, two-story building, with a garden at the front, and a cobbled pathway leading, through the shrubs, to the door. Elenwë looked a question at Lassilenwë, and the lady nodded.

“If you would wait here a moment,” Elenwë said, following Lassilenwë through the pathway to the door and disappearing behind it shortly thereafter.

They waited a while outside for her to be done, which gave Anárion time to assess the house itself, and the possible reasons for Lassilenwë’s seeming embarrassment. It was a perfectly lovely house, made of white stone, with a small porch to one side. It was missing the inner courtyard typical in most Numenorean houses of the time, he could see from the outside, but it was in no way lacking in any other particular.

“Wen is likely to be feeding her tea and pastries, to make sure that she can digest them,” said Emeldil, leaning against the fence.

“It was a very brave thing your sister did,” said Isildur, looking at each of them in turn, letting his gaze linger on Anárion a moment longer. “I wonder how she met this lady.”

“It is easy for women to meet,” said Eranion. “They have sewing societies, and concerts, and archery competitions, and things of that like. Lassilenwë is the daughter of a very prominent man, Galador.”

“Galador?” chorused Anárion and Isildur, looking at each other. “Galador, the captain?”

“The same. Do you know him?”

“He had house in Andúnië, but had not dwelt there in a long time,” Isildur said. “I cannot believe this is his daughter. She was a small thing when I saw her last,” and he made a gesture with his hand, signaling a height to the middle of his torso. "We have had to dance with her before; she was pretty even then, and opinionated."

"That she still is," said Emeldil. "Comes from having a father who indulges her. Some people have said the same of Wen, but I never saw anything of it." It was Emeldil's ill-timed pause that let them all hear Anárion's snort. Emeldil glared at him before resuming the train of his talk. “They had lived in the colonies in Middle-earth and returned to find their house appropriated; they had to move here with the rest of the Elendili.”

That made an impression. Anárion frantically searched his mind for that fact, ashamed that he had let it escape him. Yes! He remembered.

“Nigh on six months ago, was it not?” he asked, eagerly.

“Sounds right,” said Eranion. “How do you know of it? I only heard through—” but then cut himself off, for which Anárion was grateful beyond words.

Isildur saved him from further awkwardness by saying, “It was quite a rumor in Andúnië, but people are afraid to speak aloud nowadays. I can see why it would have been hushed here.”

"Or why the family would have been anxious to keep it quiet," said Eranion. "It has turned nasty, since the Elendili arrived--" but he was interrupted by the door opening and Elenwë coming out.

In their haste to flee, Anárion had been unable to look at her more closely; but, as she joined them outside, he was painfully struck at the difference a few months had made, making her even more womanly, while restoring even more the old spark that had always drawn him to her.

He knew she would not speak to him, for which he was grateful; he would have been hard-pressed to form a coherent thought now that Lassilenwë's competing perfume was not masking Elenwë's fresher scent of gardenia and lemon.

From this part of the city, the walk to the beach would not be far. Assuming the lead, Emeldil walked ahead with Isildur, followed by Eranion and Elenwë, with himself trailing not far behind.

A soft, cool breeze was blowing, which dried their sweat and brought them the murmur of the sea that they all loved so well. Even though he lived close to the harbor, he kept always so busy that he seldom visited the beach for pleasure. His work with his ships was oftentimes limited to the drawing table, and his other... occupations left him but little time for himself. He would enjoy this reprieve, though his mind was awhirl with many thoughts, the least of which was how he would get through so much as an hour without fighting with Elenwë close by.

Looking ahead, he saw her lace her arm around her brother's.

"You are tired," he heard himself say. "It was a long, fast walk."

She gave an unladylike snort. "I am ashamed to say that the list of appropriate activities for women does not include much exercise beyond a few arm movements. I am sorely out of shape."

"I would not have thought it by the way you kept up with us," he said, mentally cursing himself for a futile course of action. Elenwë turned then to look at him, opened her mouth to speak, only to be forestalled by Emeldil.

"She had to keep up, else it would have turned into a fight. Nice work saving a lady in distress, but that just made it harder to keep appearances for all of us."

"I had to do something, Mel!" she cried, balling hands into fists. "If they had killed her and I had done nothing, my conscience would have been tainted; I would have been just as guilty as them."

"In Wen's defense," chimed in Isildur, "the lady Lassilenwë made her peril even worse by all that muttering. Wen just mediated amidst the commotion."

"What really happened, Wen?" Eranion asked, finally giving voice to what all four of them must have been secretly yearning to know. "If I was going to be called upon to draw fists for the lady Lassilenwë, I would at least like to know why."

"Hear, hear!" from Emeldil and Isildur. Elenwë then turned a question to him, expecting he joined the others, but he only shook his head, stretching his palms out to her, signing peace.

She sighed. "Lassilenwë is not very good friends with me, or with anybody that I can tell, but she is determined to be accepted here, without hiding she is an Elf-friend. I thought she did not know that that would not garner much friendliness here, but she was always rude in putting me in my place whenever I suggested it. Until today, I did not know just how scared and confused she must have felt..."

"Scared?" Emeldil asked. "How so? I seemed more scared than she did."

"Well, think about it, Mel. When people are scared, sometimes they become aggressive. Everything she knows has been taken from her, and now she needs to adapt as a despised minority. She has a right to be angry, no matter that the fight she chose is one she is not likely to win."

"Nor is she likely to have many aiding her. She was haughty and ungrateful, despite all you risked in her behalf."

"Well," Elenwë said, dragging the word, a small smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. "Those are the kinds of things one does not so much to help others, but to help oneself."

Silence settled between them as they walked the distance to one of the few beaches fit for bathing in the bay. A consequence of increasing sea-traffic was a proportional increase in quays and docks to house all the new ships; it gave Anárion good work, and much-needed experience, but he still grieved at the slow but steady disappearance of the beautiful beaches of his home. It troubled him well, and he could see no solution to it: Númenor was, after all, an island. Had they outgrown themselves from the Valar's home for them? And, more importantly, was he aiding his people's downfall rather than helping stall it by his chosen line of work?

"Every thing that rises must, perforce, fall down..."


A few pairs of eyes turned to fix on him, and it took him a while to understand why. He had not been aware that he had spoken aloud.

"It is nothing," he said, looking away, as he began to roll his sleeves to enjoy the breeze more fully. "Just an observation. It is hard not to lament progress when you can so readily see what is sacrificed in turn. To have to walk so far to find a beach in an island--"

"So you see, Wen," Emeldil cut in, with a wink, "things here are as bad as anywhere else; no need for you to be sailing all the way to Andúnië to find people to help or things to fix."

"What were you doing in Andúnië, anyway, Wen?" asked Isildur. "I was gone most of the times you dined with Mother, and neither her nor Grandmother could tell much of your errand there."

Elenwë shrugged her shoulders. "That is because there was not much to tell."

"And with most of the Elendili here in Rómenna," said Emeldil, "you would do best to stay around, lest all the eligible men be taken or, worse, turned to darkness."

"Cease this irreverent talk at once, Emeldil," she cried. "Men should not be swayed as easily as that."

Noting her failure to retort to the other half of her brother's assertion, Anárion could not help but ask, "Are you looking for a husband, then?"

"I am not looking, if by that you mean actively striving to find one." Then the pitch of her voice lowered just slightly, wistfully, he thought. "It is natural to want companionship, be one a woman or man."

"I have no words to dispute that," he said. "I have seen what marriage can do to a person. Provided that you find the right person."

"Is it your advice, then, to look actively rather than wait?" she asked. There was no mirth in the question.

Neither was there mirth in his answer, "Waiting cannot hurt, if you do not mind waiting long, or if you are certain that your judgment will not be clouded by impatience."

"Are you looking, then?"

"I am a patient man."

"Or conceited," said Isildur, putting a hand on his brother's shoulder. They had arrived at the beach and, already, impatient Emeldil had taken off shirt and shoes and was making to shore, crying behind him for someone to watch his clothes while he took a swim. "You two address each other as if you we perfect strangers rather than friends from infancy, and it is trying in the extreme. I will take a swim to rid myself of all this animosity."

Eranion was left, but far from uncomfortable, he looked like he had enjoyed Isildur's reprimand.

When he looked a question at her, Elenwë rolled her eyes. "Yes, you might as well go, too. If I had known I would end up here, guardian of all your clothes, I might have instigated a brawl myself."

"Do not even joke about it," Eranion said, as he removed his shoes and left them at his sister's feet and, with a wink at Anárion, cried as he made to shore, "Thanks for staying with Wen! I owe you one!"

It would have been impossible to describe the awkwardness that followed. Elenwë moved swiftly to gather her brothers' discarded clothes before the wind carried them out of reach, and he did the same for Isildur's, placing them in a pile by her side.

"I would not mind it if you wanted to go with them," she said.

It was tempting. She was offering him the chance to escape instead of having to stay to face the many ghosts of things, both said and unsaid, that lay between them. But another desire within him had greater pull: she had been avoiding saying his name.

He shook his head. Thinking it safe to sit beside her with the clothes pile in between, he sat and took his shoes off.

She did not look at him for a long while.

But he knew she wanted to. She arranged and rearranged the clothes by size, then by color, then folded them the way that seamstresses do, with the sleeves behind, tried to guess which socks matched which shoes. In the end, she took her slippers off, as well, and let her feet feel the soft sand, pulled her left foot to her to rub it, and finally looked an apologetic smile at him.

"When I said I was out of shape, I did not mean it as idle talk. My feet are throbbing."

"We came a long way."

"How you found your way through the maze of that market, I shall never know," she said, looking sidelong at him, unwilling to ask more, but curious. For a moment, he thought that he would be called to task for knowing the underground quite so well, but after a brief hardness on her face, its lines melted into a soft smile. "I thank you for stepping up to help me. I thought she would break free from me and throw herself at them. When I felt you were pulling us along..." she was clearly embarrassed to go on; a blush colored her cheeks, and the telltale dainty frown right between her eyes had made its appearance, but she rallied enough to say, "Then I knew we would make it."

That was more than he had been prepared for, coming from her, and it took him a while to recover from the impact it made on him. That she could bridge years of awkwardness and relative estrangement to say something like that warmed him like not even the sun ever had on the coldest day. Unwilling to let the mood fade, he frantically thought for something to say, not realizing how hard finding surface talk could be, even when there was so much that he longed to say.

He settled for, "The lady Lassilenwë does not know how fortunate she was today, nor the kind of friend she has in you. Isildur was right: it was a very brave thing to do; it put you in all kind of risks. She would have shown her gratitude in a different way, had she realized it."

"Could you blame her for being so angry? I deserve it, for skulking about, trying my meager hand at easing suffering as vast as the sea." She then turned to look at him full in the face; he could see lines of shame and worry around her eyes and mouth, grieved for being unable to wipe them away. She leaned forward, just slightly, eager, to ask what he suspected had been on her mind for a while now judging for the breathless way it came out, "Do you think it cowardice, biding one's time?"

Anárion knew what she meant; had known, even when Lassilenwë made her accusations earlier, that they would bother Elenwë for her kindness and her sense of moral uprightness. He had struggled with those same questions for years, had suffered under their weight, letting the elusive answers wear him down until it became impossible to be of help to anybody. He could never reveal to her how he had come by the answers that made sense to him, but he could try to help her find her own.

As fast as her question had come, she had looked away, eyes fixed on some undetermined point in the horizon, further from where their brothers played. He moved just a little closer and, leaning forward in turn, said, "Entirely by chance, I met a family of eight, all Elf-friends, down to the six-year-old, living under a bridge for a roof." She turned to him, horrified. "The father had been a seaman off Andúnië's ports, until the King's law came into effect that sailing the western seas was banned and all the Elendili found were to relocate. They lost everything. No one would give him work here. The King forgot to consider housing for the poorer of his Faithful subjects. They had run out of all the savings they had when I met them, but he was too angry and ashamed to beg for money."

"What happened?" she cried, seizing his cuff in a swift motion of despair. Their eyes met; hers were bright with unshed tears and other things he did not know how to read anymore. It was brief; embarrassed, she withdrew her hand, but too late. Her touch had branded him like with a searing iron.

"When he realized that the children were going to starve, he bit back his pride and took a job at a cobbler's, cutting leather for shoes. It paid him a just enough to buy food for home, but enough. He had to withstand insults and the coarse treatment of himself and all Elf-friends, but he needed the work. When his boss realized that he was a fine worker, suddenly his being an Elf-friend was not quite so important."

"Who found him the job?"

Anárion ducked his head to hide a small, rather unwitting smile.

"You did!" she cried, clapping her hands together in delight.

"Do you think I would have been able to do so, had I been known to be one of the Elendili from the start?"

She shook her head.

"My friend also realized the value of avoiding and resisting provocation. In the end, it might be a question of the ultimate reasons why we revere the Valar and Ilúvatar; they have no need of worship, but we do. It brings hope, fulfillment, order to our lives. It is the friendship and regard this island was founded upon. Would we do best by getting ourselves all killed, or by trying to stem the tide until this path most people have taken is proven to lead nowhere? If we are all dead when that happens, what hope would there be for the world?"

Anárion had not realized how much he had needed to say those things until now that they were out of his chest, nor had he ever considered the possibility of them being poured onto Elenwë's. He felt self-conscious, but strangely at peace.

It was her turn to look away to hide a smile of her own. "You have thought about this quite a great deal."

"Avoiding a decision only made the weight greater. Once I knew what I believed and what path I thought I should take, many things fell into place; not everything, but many important things."

"What about all the other answers you need?"

"I wait for them."

She gave a small sigh. "I am not--have never been--as patient as you are. Most people are not. Watching the world around me, I fear that everything will crumble to pieces before anything can be done."

"You mean you want a hasty solution for a problem that has been years in the making. People most usually learn from their mistakes."

"That type of learning might prove fatal now."

"The Valar might accept true repentance. We see, in the lore of our fathers, that they have in the past."

"You assume that people will want to repent."

"Why would they not?" he asked, leaning forward. "When one errs, honor demands that one make amends for his failure if one has offended, and change course. It is as simple as that. A man would not--could not--do less. It would not be right. Moreover, it would be shameful--"

"Anárion," she said, laying a gentle hand on his forearm as if to restrain his enthusiasm. The sound of his name on her lips was not as sweet to him as it could have been, for it came tied to a rebuke. "That is the code of honor you live by, but not all men have been taught likewise."

"One has no need of teachers to know that, when a path fails, one must take another one."

"I think some people are deliberately blind. Take Lassilenwë," she said, staring up into his eyes, unaware that she had not moved her hand away and the pressure of it on his arm was tantalizingly maddening, "would you not say that she is blind, for all that she is an Elf-friend? In the name of the Valar she insults and ridicules those who do not think like her. I fear that, before long, she will cease to see the error of her ways and then not even the Valar will be as important to her as her being right."

He had to think about that for a moment, not only so that he could ascertain himself of his own opinion on the matter, but because her touch, after so long an estrangement, was both painful as it was delicious. He hated himself for such thoughts, but could not prevent them from springing unbidden.

"Suppose," he said, at length, "that your scenario came true. Once something happened to alert her of her mistake--it would have to be major enough to bring her to a halt, make her truly ponder about her ways--would she not repent and redress?"

"Nobody can say but Lassilenwë herself. And, who would send these major pitfalls? That is not how things work in life."

"No. We are agreed, then, that one should be more careful from the outset."

She nodded.

"And that, generally, the Faithful might be considered to be in more danger from pride than the King's Men."

"No. That was not what I said."

"But you brought up Lassilenwë."

"Only to use an example that was common for both us."

"I think you made an excellent point by using her as your example. Self-righteousness may be a major downfall for most of us," he said. "The thought occurred to me after we parted ways with her that, not knowing the danger she is in, she will not be watchful of it."

Elenwë finally withdrew her hand and looked away, and Anárion was finally able to breathe easily again.

"Are we contradicting each other?" she asked, "Or are we, in truth, agreeing on different words?"

There it was, the reason why being close was not a good idea anymore. A bitter smile played on his mouth.

"We agree that one must be watchful and stay as away from sin as possible. Once a transgressor, however, I think men may repent once their wrongdoing is made apparent, whereas you think that unlikely in most cases."

"That was not what I said."

"That is what you meant."

"How can you know that?" she asked, kneeling on the sand, her hands balled fists against her thighs.

"That is the logical conclusion from your argument."

"We will never find out who is right," she said, relaxing her fists and looking down at her hands.

"Not unless we set out to prove it, which would be wrong and unethical."

The small, dainty frown was back, as was, he noticed with vexation, his biting of the inside of his lip. By the time Isildur and her brothers were done, he had begun to despair of the silence that had settled between them ever being broken. It was an uneasy calm, full of things left unsaid, that made him abject and despondent. Isildur brought back his good humor, but not another word from Elenwë just for him.

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Dinner the following evening was a sad affair. With so many people nearby, there was little chance of engaging her again in any sort of meaningful conversation, or even try to renew the subject from the previous day as a last resort, as he had purposed. She was utterly out of reach, as she had always been, and though she was delighted by his grandfather's jokes, the consolation was but a poor one to make up for the vanishing of the intimacy they had shared at the beach.

Unable to explain to himself why he wanted such a renewal, perfectly aware that those bouts of good will between them were never long-lasting, he began to look forward to the celebration of the Erulaitalë. Then he would, at least, be able to claim a dance and have her hand in his once more.

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