Unpacking, Or Not
Makalaurë yanked at the haversack's buckle. The pack itself was not exceptionally large, but it was so thoroughly stuffed that even its fastenings were straining, not aided by the fact that the leather of the retaining straps were dried from their exposure to the weather. He lifted it up by its seams and dropped it back on top of the knee-high crate, rolling it to shift its weight away from the two fasteners. He huffed, glancing over his shoulder at Orostámo. "Remind me to commend the twins for their skill in tying this shut."
"Just take a knife to it."
Makalaurë twisted around fully to level an unimpressed stare on him. "I will not. And neither will you," he added with a pointed look at Orostámo's hands. He was holding a particular treated leather sleeve, currently working its small trusses.
"This I am tying up, not tearing open." Even as he said it, he yanked the slender strips tight over the mouth of the sleeve, twisting them into a slip-knot. "At least for the nonce. All the numbers are here bar your sire's banner's, though I understand from Vëantur that he submitted them to Prince Carnistir." He looked up from the knot, giving it another firm tug. "Shall I retrieve them?"
Makalaurë gave a terse nod. "And set that sleeve with the maps for now. I will see to it."
"Behind you! Atop the table with that other haversack of the twins'."
"Ah." He could hear Orostámo shifting around the mélange of chattels as he continued to wrestle with the leather. "Looking at it now, we can hardly deny being quite enthused in our charting of Hísilómë, can we? Mayhap too enthused. It looks as ready to burst at the seams as yours does." There was a muffled slap of the sleeve being dropped on the wood surface.
Makalaurë grunted, finally sighing as he withdrew the dirk from his hip and wriggled its thrust through a narrow gap the strap had yielded. A feeble chuckle followed behind him. He could barely hear it over the endless soft music being piped and strummed outside, but Makalaurë still heard it and resisted the temptation to turn and glare again as he leveraged the strap to yield more. "Quiet," he instead rumbled.
Another chuckle. "I intended not to offend."
"I know, but I am in no fair mood, so just…just keep quiet."
There was a pause. Makalaurë could feel the steady stare on the back of his head. He shoved the dirk back into its sheath and yanked at the buckle harder.
"Shall I call those in your service to assist with this clutter, Highness?"
"No!" The response morphed into a bark as the buckle at last acceded to his tugging and came apart. He exhaled sharply as he moved to the other fastening and repeated the process, trying to quell the rapidly rising irritation. He did not know whether the shaft of annoyance was for the haversack or for Orostámo, but he forced it down nonetheless, shifting on his knees to ease the cramps. "I will handle it," he added more quietly. "They have much yet to arrange with their own lodgings and much of this clutter –" He angled around to glance at Orostámo. "– belongs to Maitimo and my father. I want it not sorted by a stranger's hands, even if I do know their face."
He heard Orostámo's small sigh. "Then pray allow me to deliver you repast, at the least. Some stew, if any is left. Do not end what is left of the day restless."
He decided his annoyance was for the power of suggestion because at the mere mention of food his stomach curled in demand. "Fine, but only something small. I need to speak with the twins on the matter of this damned haversack and I told Sinyalvë to come to me about the gardens before he retires. I would rather eat on the way."
The next sigh was most certainly of exasperation. "Makalaurë, you need to sleep! I have been at your side since crossing the river and by your own confession you have not slept since two days before yesterday. I know there is much to be done, but – and pray forgive me for saying it – but you are not as tireless as your father!"
"Yes! Of that I am well aware!" He twisted around, meeting the glare with a sharp one of his own. "I know I need to eat. I know I need to sleep, as I can feel the pull of both. You are not the first to harangue me with it and most probably will not be the last. Glad now, at my new confession? But yes, Orostámo," he went on as he wrenched the other fastening apart without looking. It opened a lot more quickly, no dirk necessary. "There is much to do and little time to do it. I will take a meal, mayhap even forego Sinyalvë. But even so, in order to sleep I must tidy some of this clutter to open a place to lay myself down." Even as he spoke, a roll of knuckles rapped loudly on the support pole at the tent's closed entrance.
Orostámo snorted less congenially, shifting away from the table. "In no fair mood, indeed."
"Exactly. So go retrieve the meal. And the numbers from Carnistir. Come in!" he tossed in the direction of where the tent's flaps were gently wafting.
It was Yánadur. And he was almost a startling contrast to Orostámo who was still fully attired, whereas Yánadur stood barefoot and wore only that billowing shirt of his tucked loosely in his leggings, the lacings at the chest untied. His hair was also unbound from its single plait and, if not for the fact that it was not tousled and Yánadur looked quite alert, Makalaurë would have guessed he had come directly from his bedroll. But he froze in his steps after ducking inside, dropping the canvas to flutter shut behind him. Yánadur looked between him and Orostámo and his open expression slipped into something more guarded. His eyebrows hiked up. "Am I intruding?"
Makalaurë shook his head, rising to a stand and briefly swaying on his feet. He flipped open the haversack. Sure enough, it was packed, fold after fold of parchments pressed tightly together. He opened his mouth to negate Yánadur's question, but Orostámo moved forward from the table before he could.
"Hardly, Commander," he said with a faint smile. He stepped over one of the crates, coming up alongside the loremaster. "And be rid of that look on your face. I was only trying my lord's patience again. And I was leaving to retrieve the last of the numbers, as it is. Or attempt to," he added dryly. "This fog impedes any navigation of the encampment."
Yánadur stared at him, his face blank. "Yes, that woe is well known to me."
"I imagine so. If you will pardon me…." Orostámo moved around him, pulling the canvas open.
Makalaurë let out a low sigh as he watched him leave, closing his eyes and dropping his head. "Orostámo." He raised his eyes to his Second as he turned around, now dimly backlit by the fire outside. "The repast – share it with me?"
Orostámo smiled a little more fully. "Of course, my liege."
Makalaurë nodded and Orostámo left with hardly a sound, the flap quivering back down behind Yánadur who had moved his silent stare now to him. Makalaurë could see the question lurking in his eyes but turned away, idly riffling through the folded leafs. He felt another shaft of irritation. There were just so many of them. "Your face is grave, I see. Or graver than its wont. Is all well with you, Yánadur?"
"My question was no jest, Makalaurë." Yánadur's solemn voice was too sharp to ignore and Makalaurë's fingers stilled along the vellum spines. He angled his eyes over to look at the Lambengolmo. "Should I leave you to your peace?"
Makalaurë sighed once more, turning back to thumb through the parchments again. "It depends. What new thing need I know now? Not that I promise I will remember it tonight. But if I must hear it, speak it."
"Perchance when you are more receptive to hear it?"
"Now you jest."
"Or mayhap I just agree with Orostámo that you need sleep," he added more meaningfully. He held Makalaurë's silent glower with a steady, calmer one of his own. "How are you faring?"
Makalaurë looked away, fingers flicking through the spines with less enthusiasm. "Well enough. Just tired."
A smile ghosted across Yánadur's mouth. "Liar." He walked further into the expansive tent and Makalaurë could see him from the corner of his eye looking around with languid interest. But Yánadur issued no comment on the very real clutter of the space as he came close, reaching out to gently pull on his shoulder. Makalaurë stiffened under the touch and Yánadur tugged again more insistently. Forcing down the impatience that rose, he turned and momentarily tensed as Yánadur wasted no time to rest both hands on the sides of his neck. In the brief moment they clutched there, still chilled against his skin from the outdoor air, Makalaurë could feel the minor callouses along his fingers that had started to form, but then Yánadur slid them down to squeeze at his shoulders a time or three. Makalaurë frowned, but Yánadur only hummed in consideration. "Just tired and yet as taut as a harp string." He stopped kneading but did not remove his hands. He looked at Makalaurë, eyes flicking between his own and filling with a commiseration that had not been there before, though they darkened with resolve at the same time as he seemed to come to some internal decision. "Heed your Second, Makalaurë, please," he finally said. "You have slept only once since that bat's landing and anyone can see it. And you know I know that sleep was done during the walk over here. Forego both Sinyalvë and the twins for now, or any other discussion. They can wait till morning."
The frown collapsed into an unimpressed stare. "Suffering a maudlin phase, are you? I know you are no father on these shores, but please, treat me not as a child that must be put to bed." He hesitated at the pained expression that suddenly appeared, the startled hurt that flashed all too quickly across Yánadur's face, but Makalaurë ignored it. "Or did your ears fail you during my side of my conversation with Orostámo? And really, Yánadur, this is hardly the height of Telperion! There are many hours left of the day still, hours I refuse to waste just because –"
"As if those hours mean anything in this veil of fog," Yánadur interrupted firmly, though not unkindly. "Not when we cannot read the stars at the moment, nor have any other means of measuring time save a candlestick. Little though we all like it, only so much can be accomplished until it passes." He lightly jostled him. "You know I am right, son. And I, for myself, fully intend to take advantage of it and find that rest my fëa is aching to have. Now…." He stepped back, his fingers sliding off Makalaurë's shoulders. He glanced around again. "Shall we clear you a space to sleep in this maze?"
Makalaurë followed his fleeting look around the interior of his tent with a lackluster one of his own. He let out a somewhat dreary sigh as he observed the several crates and rucksacks that had been unloaded from the carts and unceremoniously piled inside his pavilion with no real organization. He could not even locate where his own belongings were, though he knew his various articles of clothing and amenities were in the bulgy haversack currently propped against the table. The candlelight was sparse, the few sconces resting on top of random crates or the ground, though no flame rested on the table since Makalaurë refused any lick of fire to be set near the haversack of maps or the satchel of banners next to it. He truly looked forward to finally unpacking all of the lampstones. He glanced at Yánadur, giving a slight shake of his head before whipping his eyes away to again stare down at the satchel of vellum, absently scratching a fingernail along the spines. "No. I already did. Behind that partition." He vaguely gestured towards the wall beyond the table where two visible extensions of the pavilion were cordoned off by, not canvas, but a thickly woven throw richly and beautifully decorated with needlework. "I know this…clutter needs attending to, and quickly, but my bedroll fits well enough in that annex. I…." He swallowed, a faint wince passing over his face. "I just want no stranger's hands to touch it. It will take less time than it seems, though, so do not think me too harried for the task. Tyelkormo said he and Curvo would take some of it and those banners since their lodgings are a bit more spacious than they need."
There was no response and Makalaurë glanced over at him. He frowned at Yánadur's unreadable expression. "What?"
Yánadur shook himself. "Nothing. I was just under the impression the two of you were not speaking."
Makalaurë let slip a barely suppressed sigh, fingers stiffening against the leafs. "Why are you here, Yánadur? Your lack of attire speaks well enough that you were soon going to lay down to sleep, so why rise? What do you need?"
"Tyelkormo cannot fully syphon himself off from you, Makalaurë, no matter the depth of his anger. Nor the damnation of his words. You know that."
Makalaurë turned to face him more fully, eyes narrowing. "His anger, you say? His words?"
"Makalaurë, come now. I was not privy to your discourse in that pavilion, but Vëantur and I both heard your upraised voices from afar. But I know well all of you children, young one. And I am not blind, either. I saw you in that pavilion no less than I saw Tyelkormo storm out from it. And I sat with you on that sward. And even if I were a stranger unto you and your brothers, the cold silence between you now is not as silent as you may think it. Not to me, nor to the Host, I daresay."
He sighed. "Makalaurë, you –" He closed his mouth, glancing over and down for only a moment, seeming uncertain. "Think you not you take this too far upon yourself? You really must do away with letting his words strike you so hard. His anger will pass! You know it always does."
"He is not angry, Yánadur!" Makalaurë snapped out. He closed up the haversack with a vicious yank and whipped around to glare at the loremaster. "Valar, that you can deem that word worthy to describe him. Or that you dare to assign such pettiness to me! Privy to our conversation you were clearly not, for you would not be now treating me with such pampering if you were! Tyelkormo is more than angry, Yánadur. I saw the anguish in his face, heard it and felt it, and it is for that reason only I did not smack his mouth! But I –" He shook his head, brow creasing as he looked away. "It just –"
"It still hurts?" Yánadur regarded him knowingly, yet his eyes were bright with that commiseration again. He inclined his head, frowning slightly. "Mayhap so, but he cannot ignore you forever."
"He does not ignore me," Makalaurë bit out. "He is no child. He is just avoiding me."
"Ah. And there is a difference?"
"Valar, enough of your slanderous talk of him! You know there is a difference. His temper may be quick, but he knows it is as well as I say it. Unlike some people."
Yánadur sighed again, gnawing on this inside of his lip as his eyes finally slid away. "Makalaurë, I know not what happened or what was said, yet you talk to me as if I do. Now, if you desire to speak of it, I will hear you. In some of his ways he may be sumptuous, yes, but what I know or not know notwithstanding, you are still his brother and he will not forget it any less than you. Cannot forget it. I know not what else you would have me say."
"When exactly asked I of you to say anything?" Makalaurë moved closer to him, catching Yánadur's lowered gaze. His brow slightly furrowed and a warning lurked beneath the intensity of his sharp stare. "I know I have your love, Yánadur, and no less your concern. And I do thank you for it. Never would I have you believe it unappreciated by me and not the least are you my elder, an order I always have sought to honor. But Valar, stop extending this attempt to comfort me." He stepped away again, expression darkening into something more grim. "Know my brothers, indeed," he muttered stiffly. "Know Tyelkormo." He shook his head, scoffing low in his throat. "My memory may know well the sound of upraised voices, but never have I seen him so cut to the heart with one of us. Crowned fury."
"Makalaurë, regardless of whatever you think of him, he will still have to overcome whatever you are talking about lest he would have it nigh unbearable in working with you, let alone lodging with you. All of them will." Makalaurë frowned down at the haversack before turning to him in no little confusion. Yánadur raised his eyebrows at his expression, shrugging in question. "Or I assume you are. This pavilion is rather spacious," he added with a meaningful glance around the interior. "Far more commodious than my little lean-to. But I know you would not claim this solely as your personal shelter when I take into consideration that a third of the shelters perished in the fire and the suggestion you put forth to split the remaining canvas, not when the last tent you shared was smaller."
Makalaurë waved at the words dismissively and tried to swallow down the discomfort that suddenly rose. "Yes and no. I am lodging with no one. My brothers and I decided to spare what canvas would could to the new shelters being constructed, so we took our three tents, Atar's, and the command tent and stripped them down. The twins took Atar's pavilion and share it with Carnistir. Tyelkormo, Curufinwë, and Telperinquar share the other. And this one," he said with an absentminded gesture around them, "is the new primary pavilion, sharing the same purpose as the last. Or did you neglect to wonder why we are near the center of the encampment?"
Yánadur snorted. "I followed four sets of instructions to find you. You all lie when you say navigating in this fog is easy."
"It is. You are just unaccustomed to camping in it, I think." A ghost of a weak grin appeared. "You never were one much for camping. We are still within the confines of my banner's quadrants but situated as near to the center as possible. A more permanent layout yet needs discussed, though it is likely this pavilion will remain at the heart of the Host." He gestured towards the aforementioned annex. "And I lodge in there."
Yánadur glanced towards it, looking back with a frown. "Why?"
Makalaurë shrugged. "Why waste material on a shelter that will be seldom used? I can hardly see myself outside of this tent now, so it is probably to everyone's greater ease if I base myself here, including mine."
"I suppose, but I cannot see it a healthy thing that you not have a place of solitude to retreat to yourself."
He nodded. "Mayhap in time when we have the materials to afford it. Until then, I shall sleep here while my brothers share the other two tents. So rejoice; you now know where to find me."
"And to whom does this arrangement owe credit?"
Makalaurë hesitated. "Me," he answered after a weighty pause. "It is the most practical solution I could think of. And I am under no delusion that Turko presently wants to continue our sleeping arrangements like before, so it is a solution twofold."
"Now who speaks of him harshly?"
Makalaurë exhaled, dropping his head. "Yánadur…."
"I am serious, Makalaurë. Do not be so faithless with him. He is your brother."
Makalaurë again snuffed out a burst of aggravation, though he still leveled a near glower on Yánadur. "A fact proven by what, pray tell? Loyalty?" He scoffed, bitterness creeping in to tinge his quiet tone. "A poor reassurance when I alone tear down that bond every day I remain on this side of the mountains."
There was another long pause, long enough for Makalaurë to catch Yánadur's expression softening further even as it hardened into something grave and even dejected. He extended a hand but seemed to think twice of it and withdrew it just as quickly. "I understand what you say, or are trying not to say, rather. I do. But you needlessly place yourself under a grindstone with this. Tyelkormo will –" Makalaurë was shaking his head, face collapsing into something more and more pained with every new word Yánadur voiced and Yánadur regarded him with a hint of concern. "What?"
Makalaurë shook his head again, shutting his eyes tight as he held up a warning hand. "Stop," he guttered out hoarsely. He opened his eyes and met Yánadur's gaze with whatever exhaustion and impatience showed in his own. "End your wisdom's courting with me. Just stop, Yánadur. Please. I am too aware of my poor reserves of patience of late and I have no desire to lash out at you." He reached over to the nearby candle and whipped his fingers against the burning wick. The flame flared brighter, beating back some more of the shadows. "I have been ill-tempered with too many people this week past. Orostámo would now rather maintain his silence than engage me. I want not to find myself now disrespecting you. I do not shut my ear to you or to what you say, but you truly have no bearing to say it. Because, Yánadur, the strange thing with brothers? They do not always live in harmony." He regarded Yánadur pointedly and with more than a little sourness, willing the significance of those words to sink in. "But you should already know that well, being of our people, should you not, friend of my father? Brothers do not always come to a resolution. And I know I am their brother, Yánadur, but Maitimo is their brother, too."
A moment of tense silence followed before understanding dawned in Yánadur's eyes and Makalaurë found himself faced with a shrewd, almost invasive stare. "You fear you have lost Tyelkormo over this. Or mayhap all of them."
Makalaurë leaned away, eyes partially widening even as he glared at him harder. "That is not worthy of an answer."
"It was not a question."
"Why are you here, Yánadur?" he demanded in almost a yell. "I have much to do and cannot afford to whittle away the little time I have to do it." He waved down towards the haversack in emphasis.
Yánadur's eyes followed the gesture but whipped back up, mild bafflement sparking in them. "What have the maps to do with everything needing dealt with today?"
"No. The maps are atop that table. These leafs here are Atar's. I asked Pityafinwë and Telufinwë to collect them before we fled from those Valaraukar."
"The ones he poured over with Maitimo most evenings?"
"Yes. And as you see, there are many to read. So what have you to say? Or came you here for nothing at all, as I grow greater to suspect?"
Yánadur did not immediately speak, seeming to abandon the idea as soon as he drew in the breath to do it. He continued to stare at Makalaurë, the frown deepening. Makalaurë had to bite his tongue, for the silence only intensified all the things their talking drowned out. He could hear the pop and crackle of the consistently fed fire just outside, the banner erected outside the pavilion rustling as the wind brayed as it only did across the fields. Cooking utensils clattering. The chatter. And weaving through it all, those singing voices came through with their reverential words for his father. Amplified, all of it, whenever silence fell. And hearing it again filter through the enclosure of the pavilion, he decided then that his annoyance was for that lamentation, for when came any spat of silence he felt that ache inside his chest bubble up more and he only just refrained from grasping at his hair because Valar, that song!
Makalaurë forcefully whipped his focus back to Yánadur and idle interest in what he had to say swiftly melded into exasperation, which then morphed into mounting vexation at the persistent silence of the loremaster. But the pure reluctance and even uneasiness shining bright in Yánadur's eyes stopped him short from snapping at him. "Well?" he prompted.
Yánadur let go a small breath, grim resolve settling over his expression as he folded his arms. "Spoke you with Laiquisyar? Last I saw him, he was searching for you come your summons and asked of me to relay his message if I came to you first."
Makalaurë regarded him shrewdly at the mention of that particular Elf-lord, his heart thudding a little harder. "I have." His response was stiff and not wholly amicable. The urge to look over at the back of the pavilion tugged at him, where lay on the other side of the wall in a carefully stacked pile the multiple shields of the fallen, paddocked by twine, but he steadfastly refused to turn his eyes away from Yánadur's unsurprised gaze.
Yánadur flashed a small, sympathetic smile. "I can tell. What will be done, then?"
Makalaurë gave in and glanced towards the back wall, looking back with a grim set to his jaw. "I do not know. Not yet. I want to honor those who died in defense of my brother, if far less than they deserve, but I can hardly refuse the wants of their kinsmen. But as you can most probably glean, I have no desire at present to discuss it, if you will indulge me that." He looked meaningfully at Yánadur in clear warning against further discussion on the topic. "So what want you, Yánadur? To ensure I spoke with Laiquisyar?"
Yánadur swallowed, seeming now even more reluctant as though there were an ill taste in his mouth. "No. Vëantur engaged me earlier today on a matter of Maitimo's banner. He went to gather their numbers but said they were rather…vocal in their displeasure for your decision to…about Maitimo."
"Yes, I know."
Yánadur's eyes widened slightly, clearly not anticipating such a response even as he became flushed with open relief, wiping away every trace of apprehension that had been in his carefully arranged expression. "You do?"
Makalaurë regarded him dubiously. "Why act you so taken? Of course they are displeased. Maitimo is their liege. They would probably earn my disgust if they were anything less than displeased."
Yánadur looked even more relieved, though he shook his head, appearing somewhat exasperated. "Sweet Yavanna, I thought I was set to ruin what remained of your eve."
Makalaurë hummed. "Your chariness come entering this pavilion makes sense now. This was all Vëantur came to you about? It is hardly a revelation."
"He felt it was, mayhap doubly so when faced with such a mass of people. I know not the number that migrated to his branch from your father's Star, but certainly more than a few. Though now I shall go yell at Vëantur for worrying me so."
Makalaurë arched his eyebrows slightly. "Worried?" he said skeptically. "This worried Vëantur? And he tells me not of it himself? That is unlike him."
Yánadur nodded. "So I informed him. Quite emphatically. But he said he feared being biased with his memories of Tirion and so distrusted himself with drawing any conclusion to give you. But I still deemed his concerns worth speaking of to one of –"
"Tirion?" Makalaurë interrupted sharply. He stared at Yánadur in alarm. "Tirion?"
The glimmers of apprehension returned to Yánadur's eyes, more strongly than before. He nodded again. "So he said."
"He said Tirion?"
Yánadur rested a firm hand against his shoulder. "Makalaurë, calm down. I know –"
Makalaurë smacked it off. "No, Yánadur," he insisted harshly, worrying his brow. "He said he was reminded of Tirion when facing Maitimo's people?"
Yánadur closed his eyes with a soft sigh and when he opened them again, the sympathy was back, shining brightly and not a little remorsefully. "Yes, dear one, but hear me, you dogged graft of Fëanáro. Vëantur himself said he feared he may be seeing something that is not there, thus why he abstained from coming to you at all." He raised his eyebrows. "Alright?"
Makalaurë saw the reassurance in Yánadur's serene eyes, heard the determination in his practiced voice, but he still felt something like the beginnings of anxiety rise up in his chest, sending his heart to thud harder against his ribs. "Yán–" He broke off the near plead, forcing himself to be calm and drawing in a deep, steadying breath to do so, but it still came out with an audible shudder. "Yánadur, dissent? Do not say there is dissent."
"I do not know," he stressed. "Words neither for it nor against it will I say, for I do not know. I was not there. But I do understand what Vëantur goes to think on. That much I defend him. Makalaurë…." He gave a rather dismal shake of his head, looking pained to even be saying anything at all. "Makalaurë, you know as well as I that the morale of our people is broken. If there is –"
Makalaurë lifted a firm hand and Yánadur fell silent instantly, a question in his eyes as he frowned. "What?"
Makalaurë stressed his hand again and finally moved away from the stuffed haversack as he hastily moved around the loremaster. Yánadur attempted to grab him but he shrugged him off. "Where are you going?"
Makalaurë shook his head and sped up, avoiding Yánadur's inquisitive gaze. He made for the pavilion's entrance in wide, hasty steps and shoved them aside.
Makalaurë tensed at the call but kept walking, only just noticing how lingering Elves hastened to steer clear of him as he disappeared into his banner's throng of tents and campfires.
To be continued