Torn Between Two Worlds
The man was bored.
He had been waiting in this hallway for what seemed to be hours. Perhaps not that long, but still an interminable wait for one who was anxious from the very start of this process. He was to be presented to the King as the new ambassador of a far away land, and the only thing he awaited was the obligatory call of his name to stand before the great man.
But there was a delay. Some minor duty of state had required the greater attention of the monarch than the arrival of a representative from a small foreign realm. And so he waited in the Hall of the Kings that stood just before the Great Throne Room where the king now resided, patiently hoping his turn would soon come.
In his nervous restlessness, he had used the time to rehearse the speech he would deliver at their introduction. He already knew it by rote, so it was not this mere formality that made him nervous. He would deliver his speech, bow a few times, then part. He had done it many times before, as an ambassador to his people in other lands. No, this responsibility did not frighten him, and a real opportunity to speak would not come until dinner that evening. He was to be seated at the king's side. And for this, he was quaking, for he could not imagine what he would say to a king he knew little about in a setting that was conducive – no, required – less formal speech. He hated the part of his job that required pretending pittance chitchat had meaning, and using what little could be gleaned from it to try to forge lasting friendships. He had little choice. One could not rehearse the spontaneity of conversation. And without rehearsal, one was never sure if a mistake would be made. Impressions at meeting were hard to undo. And so this dinner, this small event, which meant so little to the king, and so little to the people of the court, meant a tremendous amount to he and his people. He could not afford to make an error.
To take his mind off his anxieties, he had started to pace the great hallway, taking in his surroundings as he went. The corridor covered a huge expanse, nearly the entire depth of the building, and the ceilings were high and arched above it. He counted the number of steps it took to reach one end of the hall to the next. He mused on the sound of his footsteps, echoing on the hard marble floors as he stepped, then disappearing into vague whispers of sound as he stepped onto the thick carpets that lined the length of the hall. The rugs had caught his attention. Obviously of highest quality, they were very rich in pattern, with a great variety of color. Such was to be expected of a kingdom that had flourished in the course of its history.
He moved his eyes to the portraits that lined the walls. Each one held a likeness of a former king, going back in long history to the first in this line. Looking up at the one at the end of the hall, he saw the portrait of the current king, and he could not help but wonder at the workings of that man's mind. He had been told he was a kind man, noble but understanding, and he hoped these words were true. His people truly needed the friendship of this king. But pondering this portrait only made him worry for this evening, so he turned his back and walked back to the other end of the corridor.
As he stepped backward in history, he decided to make a game out of it by studying the paintings, looking to see if a family resemblance could be detected from image to image. And in fact he did see it. The same eyes were apparent in the next generation. A consistent jowl line was visible in nearly four or five portraits. In some it was coloration. In others it was the formation of the brow. And as he looked on them he could see the metamorphosis from monarch to monarch.
He found this game to be amusing, so he started to look for other similarities. In the details he saw same elements repeating from portrait to portrait. Perusing the entire collections from the end of the line he could spot them: same crown, same pin, same scepter, same pendant, samewait! No, not the same. That pendant was not in all the portraits. He went back to look at the first portrait. A king and his queen. No pendant was there. He stepped to the second and looked at the lone image in that picture. Here was the ornament. And so on in the next, and onward from there. But not in the first? This was curious and he wondered at the origin of this obvious heirloom that it was not there from the start.
Looking more carefully now at the detail of the paintings, he detected an interesting trait in each of the proceeding ones. Each artist in turn had done his best to capture an essence that was becoming more apparent to him. As he studied each painting, he could see that the focal point in each picture lie directly on that pendant. He wondered about that and scrutinized the detail of the gestures in paint. It was remarkable that over the centuries in which these portraits were created, the one thing each artist focused most specifically upon was that necklace. The detail attributed to their mastery gave him a very thorough appreciation of their creative talents. Each artist had attempted to capture an almost luminous quality in the gem. As he examined each work, he could nearly detect the finest intricacy of the stone. Shaking his head in disbelief, he stepped back again to take in the magnitude of this collection. There was certainly a story to be told in these paintings, and he was pleased. He could think of many questions to ask on this gem, and now he was armed with a topic to converse with the king. Perhaps he might even wear it that night at their dinner? Would that not be rich?
Stepping back to the beginning of the line of kings, he stopped before the portrait of the first in this line. A man and a woman. He was seated, and she stood at his side, her left hand resting on his right shoulder. He read the placard. Elessar and Arwen. Odd. There was something familiar about those names. Looking up at their faces, he saw the nobility in the brow and the eyes, and he recognized now that it continued down the line to the very king he was to meet this day. Gazing again at the portrait, he noticed their hands were clasped, his hand reaching hers at his shoulder. It was a tender gesture, probably captured to express an apparent affection between the two. Studying their faces most carefully, he spotted a detail that had somehow escaped him until this moment. Her ears! They were pointed! How could that be? But then – no, the names – this could not be so! Was she an elf? Glancing quickly now to the paintings that followed, he saw now some of the nuance features that were hers in this family line. Slowly, they faded with each generation. But they were obviously there in the second portrait.
He stood rooted now before the first portrait. His eyes could not leave her face. An elf! That was where he had heard their names! But it was a myth, this tale of the land he now stood in! A fairy tale for children! Or was it? He thought back on what he could remember of the stories. A dark lord – and a ring, was it? And an exiled king who brought freedom to all the lands and married an elven princess. A dark and frightening fable it was, but with a happy end, he remembered. It had to be a fairy tale! But then how to explain this portrait before him and the familiarity of the names? He shook his head in wonder. Oh yes, there was most certainly a topic for conversation this evening! And he was indeed looking forward to it!
The door at the far end of the hall opened, and he heard the chamberlain approach to escort him in to the king. He turned to meet him, but not without pausing to look once again at the paintings. He stepped to the second portrait. The placard read: Eldarion. The detail in this painting was most intricate, and he looked for a last time at the pendant that draped at that monarch's chest.
A single thread he saw captured in the crystal. Spun gold perhaps it was? But it was the pattern that struck his interest most and he wondered at the significance of it. Surely it represented something of importance, for the symbol within the pattern was unmistakable. Building upward in the stone was a cascade of swirls, overlapping in a perfect series of successive figure eights on their sides. They were the symbol for the never-ending, for the concept of infinity. He knew this well. Infinityeternal. Immortal.
The emissary pulled himself away from the picture. He was ready. He walked toward the greeting of the king's servant as a warm, yet diplomatic, smile spread across his face. He felt whole enough now to face his future, for he could see there was so much new to learn in this land. There was so much history and so much mystery behind it that he knew he would not let his time go by without discovering, with interest, all he could on it. He knew now he was going to like this place.
A/N: To all my reviewers, a tremendous THANK YOU! You made all the energy put into this very much worth it, and the response was far better than I ever anticipated.
I am really very sad to leave. As much as this story emotionally drained me, it was still a great exercise, and I hope you, in turn, enjoyed it. If you like reading my work, then I have good news! There is a new story currently in the works, and it is brewing into a very tasty concoction! It will NOT be a continuation of this arc (please, no more angst for a while), nor will it be a missing scene. It will be of my own make in the genre of Action Adventure/Horror and it promises to be a much longer fiction and quite gruesome at times. Plus lots of character insight. I won't tell you more except to say it will have starring roles for Aragorn, Arwen, Faramir, Eowyn, plus Legolas and Gimli (of course). And there will be some very nasty bad folk! But it is not ready for posting yet and since I hate leaving you high and dry, I will offer you this: if you would like to be informed by email when this new fiction is up, leave a note in your review. Or you could simply bookmark my author info page and check in from time to time. Either way, I hope to see you all when the new story is up. Just so you know, I don't expect I will have this new fic going until late May or so (still much research to be done, plus I need a little break). Until we meet again, happy reading!
And don't forget to give me your thoughts on the way out! Please review!