From his earliest memories, he had lived in this House. He had eaten in it, played in it, slept in it, remembered in it, forgotten in it.
He lived in a world without sun, without light. Beams turned into a sickly yellow colour at his feet. The house was dreaming in its memories, and it did not welcome them, he thought. Whenever he ventured outside the much-wearied rooms, the aged floorboards creaked with protest, and doors banged shut in his face. He felt like a stranger in his own home. His house. It was not his home. His home was somewhere far, far away, where sunlight and love was plentiful, where he was happy.
Father Maglor was making a song, a song singing of the Hope of the World, which was a light in the sky. The song was never finished. Ada never wanted it to be finished, never wanted the Hope of the World to arrive. For he knew once that day came, he would perish, he would be punished. And so he lived in his world of dreams and songs, drunk on his own sorrow and misery. The rare moments Ada paid attention to them were precious, and he strung them like beads on the necklace of his life.
When he was small he thought the star in the sky was his father, but now he did not believe that. If it was really Earendil, why had he not come to take them away?
Sometimes, on the razor edge balanced between pain and dreams, he remembered. He remembered his mother’s voice, although her face had faded into a pale moon, the features unrecognisable. He remembered day. He remembered laughter. And there was a light; a light that outshone all others, a light that blotted out everything else from his mind, leaving only a blinding glare and ephemeral beauty.
They were losing the fight. More and more dust covered the windows with the greenish tinge. The House forced them out, room by room, slowly but surely. Room after room was abandoned to dust, to moths, to decay and to darkness. Termites had invaded part of the structure, and sometimes he could hear the patter of their feet beneath the wood. The trees grew at an amazing rate, so that even only weeks after Ada cleared the branches, they grew back again, blocking the yellow-grey sky with their spider-webs. There was soft rotting in the garden, with the smell of the dead flowers and raucous smoke and the wild animals.
Then there was the rain. It had rained consistently for so long that even Ada, who had lived for so long, forgot when it had started. There was silent resignation of it in every movement they made. He can hear his bed’s protests as he rose from it. The air was so saturated with moisture that a simple stroll around the house left his clothes damp and cold. The rain killed everything except the trees in the woods. There would be earthworms wriggling in the puddles when the pour let up, shiny and twisting, the delicious colour of earth. He would take them inside into an empty room, and he would cut them into pieces, watch them slowly stop moving and freeze in the air. The room became covered with sections of dead worms, with the dried-out smell of mud.
Yes, they were all tired. All tired of fighting this perpetual death.
When the rain stopped, every time, he would come. The elf with many names, names his brother called him, names they called him, and secret names in his sleep. He would come with the flame in his eyes, the rain in his shoes, and the scent of blood on his sword.
He brought news. He brought change. He brought hate and indifference. Maitimo, Ada called him. His name was Uncle Russandol, they were told. Maedhros, Ada called him that when he was angry at Maitimo-Russandol-Maedhros. So many names. Confusion. So in his heart, small Elros named him the Rain-man. He had power over the rain, so that when he came it never rained, not even once. Before, when he was little, he thought the Rain-man had power over them too. Ada put his songs in the desk with the lock when Rain-man came. They were given a much-needed wash when he came. The light in the kitchen burnt late into the night, and he and Ada held secret meetings. Ada thought they were safe in bed, and he even read a story to them before putting out the candle. But we fooled them, the Sons of Feanor, Elrond said. Another name.
He brought many things with him. Sometimes when he remembered them, he brought presents to give them. When he was older, Rain-man brought him a looking glass. Elros looked inside and saw a boy. Ada said it was he inside. But if he was looking at himself, who was looking at him? The boy in the glass was another Elros. This Elros did not leave his home by the Sea, and his family, and he did not ever live in this House. He had no twin brother, and he had a light for an Ada. His new Ada would take him to sail in the skies, and his Nana would give him sweets to eat. But sometimes there would be another Elros inside, and this Elros was dead.
He began to get confused about himself. Was he the happy Elros, or the dead Elros? Or the thousand other Elroses that sometimes he saw? Every different choice he made each day creates a new Elros. An Elros that did not eat the bread yesterday, an Elros that did not quarrel with his brother last week, an Elros that lived in a House on an Island, and listened to the music of the waves. What made him more real than the thousand other hims? Or was he just another reflection?
He wrapped the glass up in a cloth and hid it in the darkest corner of the attic, for he did not have the strength to break it, and kill himself.
One day, when the Rain-man came, Ada and him did not even wait until they were asleep. This time they barred the door to the kitchen, and they could not eavesdrop anymore. But he dared not to do it when Elrond was not with him. Elrond had exchanged angry words with Ada not long ago, and he locked himself in his room to write his book that was never finished. He refused the food they brought him. Ada grew dark circles under his eyes, and took his song papers out of the drawer.
It was raining.
Elrond told him secretly that he was writing a book. When he finished, he would leave this House, and find a king living on an Island. Then they would leave this horrible house, and live with the King. The King has a big castle, and every room is filled with light. That night, he had a nightmare about a huge castle. Every room was very bright, and he was alone. But he could not find anyone in the quiet afternoon, and the castle turned into the House.
He woke up, with sweat on his forehead and his clothes slick on his skin.
He began to cry, but no one heard him. Ada and the Rain-man was talking heatedly in low voices below, and Elrond was in his own room, carefully scraping off the words he had written on the page.
He was alone, like in the dream.
They would run out to the open, and dance under the rain, and become very wet. Ada would sing with his beautiful voice, sing with abandonment of his old home, the Refusal of their people, the desire for the Light, in a language he only half-understood.
Then they would go back into the house, to warm and dry by the fire, and Ada would give them hot tea to drink. Perhaps Elrond would tell him a story about people who died long ago. But when he talked about the dying Sindarin elves, he would glance at Ada on purpose and a hard edge would enter in his voice. Ada grew white-lipped, and he would always be the one to leave the room.
They would run out of things to say. Then they drift slowly back to their respective spheres, their own little worlds where they are comfortable. Perhaps not comfortable; they were just used to it. You could get used to almost everything, when you have enough time.
Well, almost everything.
Never to this apparition of a house, this semblance of a home, this illusion of warmth. Never. They all knew, the inky water at the bottom of the well was frozen, ever hard, ever unyielding. And however long the sun shines upon it, however great a flame is used to melt it, it will remain there, a small part of it, for eternity. If they were just careless, for a split second, the coldness would creep up their back and freeze up their heart; just one unexpected moment could kill them.
Yes, they were all tired. All tired of guarding this endless vigil.
He broke the mirror.
Anything is better than living in this mirage house, he reasoned, even dying. The mirror broke into a thousand little pieces, and a thousand different faces stared back at him, mercilessly. He did not die. Even worse. The other hims were free in this world, to go wherever they want to, like the wind-spirits of Aman. When Elrond came into the room, he was chastised for not sweeping up the pieces. Elrond went away for a while to get a broom to clean up the mess.
But, he said, but why? Why throw away the pieces? If the other Elroses went away, then he would be the real one, the only one left existing. Where would his deepest sadness go? Where would his most blissful happiness? He would be bored.
He went down the stairs numbly. Ada was in the sunroom, ashen-faced. Ironically named, for the rays of Anar never set her eyes on this room. Only Tilion, late in the night, would throw his grey mantle over the darkness, and the room knew light. Ada looked at him.
Nice day, is it not?
Uncle Russandol and I will be gone for a few weeks, he paused. I trust that you and your brother will take care of yourselves. His voice grew sterner. Do not try to escape. It is dangerous outside, and you two will certainly starve to death.
Then softer, almost to himself, and there is no place to go, no place to return to anyway.
He walked slowly over to his father. Before he could find his voice, Ada pulled him into a tight embrace. He couldn’t breathe. After a long moment of pain, Ada finally pulled away. He took a step back in relief.
When will you be leaving?
Ada sighed wearily, and looked out the window. Perhaps tonight, if the weather allows.
The weather would never allow. How could you two leave in such a storm?
He was forced to look into Ada’s stern grey eyes. Ada stroked his hair gently.
Elros, there is one thing I have to say. The words sound so familiar, yet unheard of. We have wanted to tell you for some time now.
So Uncle Russandol is in this too. He felt slightly dazed and sarcastical.
We were worried about how you would take it. Ada’s eyes darkened and he hesitated. But, it is just –
There is no rain, Elros.