While her Eagle was sound asleep in the trees above their camp, she could not. While sleep was technically something she didn’t need she had begrudgingly followed Caethir’s example of using it as a tool to block out the world. The distant howls of barghests made her shudder and she couldn’t quite shake the feeling that the faint, whistling breeze passing through this edge of the Old Forest wasn’t fully natural either. Herynglas sat up and wrapped her cloak tightly around herself. She could hear snores coming from the tent where Faeladar and Reggie were managing to sleep despite the haunting sounds that surrounded them all.
“Ignorance really can bring peace, sometimes,” she muttered bitterly.
Why had she decided to stay in Middle-Earth? It was a question she had repeated so often over the recent decades. Ever since she had lost her love to a marauding pack of Orcs over a century ago, life had just seemed bleak and pointless. Of all our parentage, only her grandfather had chosen to depart for the Grey Havens and back to Undying Lands.
“And with the blessing of grandmother as well, which beggars belief” she whispered into the air.
Swallowing Her Pride
Then there was Caethir. He had not followed his older brother’s path of studying Elven lore, choosing instead the crude tools of the bow and the sword. While their father had embraced diversity in his family, letting each child become whatever they desired, Herynglas had clung onto some age-old ideas of what an Elf should be.
What right do we have to mould other beings? They’re made in Eru’s image, not ours.
Herynglas looked up – which made her smile because inside a tent, the gesture was rendered completely pointless.
“You’ve been listening,” the Elf replied softly to her Eagle.
I always know when you’re troubled.
“I know.” was all she could manage.
If you want the victory tomorrow, you need no distraction.
Reaching out to the entrance flap of her tent, she pulled a corner across and looked out to the campfire, which was still glowing. Caethir was still awake, seemingly lost in watching the lingering flames lick the remnant branches and twigs.
Taking a deep breath, she crawled out of her shelter, cursing as the dirt tarnished her usually-pristine robe.
Standing awkwardly and feeling her back muscles fight to unknot themselves after being so cramped, she shuffled her way to the camp fire. Sitting down on a rough patch of ground next to Caethir, she wondered if he had even noticed her.
“I have,” Caethir responded to her un-voiced question, “And I’m glad of the company”
“Does everyone read my mind?”, Herynglas enquired, a little perturbed.
“Only those that know you better than you think they do.”
They passed a few more minutes of silence, both unsure how to begin to unravel centuries of animosity between them.
Caethir glanced across at Herynglas, who steadfastly held her gaze at the burning embers.
“I’m sorry I never measured up. That I wasn’t good enough.”, he said sadly.
“No, I’m…I mean I should never have…” Herynglas struggled for the words.
“Had me, you mean?” Caethir tried to finish the question for her, through gritted teeth.
Herynglas took a sharp breath and held it, the pain of truth striking her very soul. Vulnerability was not a feeling she had openly acknowledged.
“That’s not what I…meant to say. But,” she fought back tears, “for a long time that was my feeling.”
“I know, you didn’t exactly disguise it well. If you even tried.”
Herynglas fidgeted with a jewel of a precious ring, gifted by her now-departed husband.
“I wish I’d listened to your father”, she acknowledged unhappily.
“It is hard growing up with two parents who regularly hold opposing views, where both believe themselves to be correct.”
“And yet my own parents are the complete opposite,” Herynglas murmured, her mind conjuring up their images, “They always seem to agree, or be able to compromise”
A flapping noise caught their attention and Caethir was about to reach for his sword, when he noticed it was just her Eagle. She landed between them and looked inquisitively from one to the other.
“Why were you so resentful of me?” Caethir asked, hoping his phrase, being in the past tense, might lift some of the strain.
For the first time, Herynglas looked him in the eyes and held his gaze. How much time had been wasted in both their lives because of that question? He had masked his hurt by hiding in woods and making no close connections. She had denied the meaning of her name and been openly hostile and agressive. Neither approach had served the other well.
He had also, from somewhere, developed a wry sense of humour. She hadn’t known about that and wondered at its source. She braced herself, ready to utter words that had long lain deep inside her, buried by layers of self-preservation.
“We had only intended on having the one child, to continue our family should anything happen to us. Your father was a wanderer of the hills and I played music at feasts in the Greenwood. We saw each other frequently but also not frequently enough, so raising your brother was like…”
“Being a single parent?” Caethir asked.
Herynglas just nodded and paused before continuing.
“It was just before the Greenwood became tarnished and haunted. Your father returned from one of his journeys and felt my loneliness more acutely than I had let on.”
She diverted her gaze from Caethir and looked, unseeing, into the rustling leaves above them.
“He stayed for months, and we were happy. I had been studying various musical instruments and writing songs that I have long since forgotten. Your father was called away with some of the other Eldar to investigate possible sightings of Enemy forces. The day after he left I realised I had conceived. Your father…my only love, never returned. He never knew he had a second son.”
Caethir pieced the picture together, his brow furrowed as he contemplated the complicated situation Herynglas had been in.
“So then you really were a single parent? And I had been the cause?” he asked resentfully.
“If I had kept my head together I would have said ‘no’. Love had been the cause. Your father had two sons, to continue his… our… legacy. But I blamed you, a tiny babe would had not asked to be brought into being.”
“And what do you feel now? Or maybe, how do you want our relationship to be now?” Caethir asked, his own eyes beginning to fill with tears against his will.
Forgiveness at Midnight
“Can you ever forgive me, my son?” Herynglas asked wiping her own eyes with the dirty, bedraggled sleeve of her robe.
Caethir thought back over his journey so far. The positive experiences with the Hobbits and with his friend at Annùminas. But he had passed through trials too – leaving Evendim, surviving the Old Forest and pushing through his mother’s spiteful tone. There was only one path that would work from here – the path of peace.
“Of course I can. Maybe we can begin to unravel history and look to the future.”
Herynglas knelt beside Caethir and opened her arms to him. Her son, taken aback by this show of emotion wrapped his mother in his own embrace and they both silently wept. Her Eagle opened her red-tipped black wings and flew back through the trees, knowing a message needed to be delivered before the fellowship left the camp in the morning.