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The Permanent Stars
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1
The Permanent Stars

He had killed a man today, and then another, and then another. He could still see the dark eyes widening in sad surprise, but the next face was a blur, and so was the next, and he could not now remember if there had been a fourth. He had long prepared himself for grief and for remorse, but what came back to him now was only the urgency, the surety, the weight and the purpose of the sword in his hand, the soft unending humming of the bees in the warm spring evening.

He felt a firm hand upon his shoulder and opened his eyes. The daylight was fading, and all about him other men were busy at their tasks.

‘You did well today, lad. Get some supper.’

A fire and food, and old tales and old jokes (new to him) were passed around, keeping the evening present, warding off the dawn, its sorrows and its doubts. He lay back, the ground catching him, the sky’s velvet covering him, and listened to the lull of the talk. Helluin shone bright above, and he gazed back at it so long that when at last sleep mothered him, it was the star’s blue light and not the dark eyes that followed him, chasing him into his dreams, like a bee in search of nectar.

***

He had hoped that a thaw would come with winter’s end, but spring brought only rain and disappointment. A score of years ago today she had slipped through their fingers, gone where they could not follow, and only the stone of the city remained, chill and hard. He withdrew and went to his window, but the night sky was clouded and the stars obscured. He lay back on the bed and sought the solace of dreams.

... a long dark tress of hair entwined between his fingers... someone behind him humming, humming a tune... blue and silver cloaking him... ‘The stars,’ she whispered to the winter, ‘in the darkness, always the stars...’

He opened his eyes. The dead of night.

His father’s was a house of locked doors and dark rooms, but he stole through it silently and skilfully. Buried deep within he found what he sought, and the starred blue cloth fell softly through his roughened hands. Not a dream, he thought, eyes stinging. Not a dream – a memory.

***

They woke together in the night’s heat, to the sound of a child’s cry. ‘I will go,’ she murmured, and he turned onto his side, chasing sleep. But his own dreams were troubled now, and so he went in search of her, passing through the starlight that slanted through their rooms.

He found them on the child’s bed, asleep together, breathing together. She had covered them in the folds of her mantle and the boy’s small hand held fast the blue and the stars. Reaching out, he set back in its place a long lock of hair that had fallen down, saw the thread of silver amidst the gold, picked out and loved each crease that edged her eyes. She was as old now as his mother had been, time-touched, and yet to him was still coming to full bloom.

He settled in the chair beside the bed. Tomorrow night, he thought, he would show the boy the star and tell him a tale of a bright blue bee that flew through dreams to make them sweet. But not tonight. Tonight he would watch them for a while and then leave them in their peace. For the stars endured, but this – this was transitory, and he would hold it while it lasted, to turn it into memory, to keep it safe in dream.

~~~

A/N: Written for Starlight, who requested a story about the first time Faramir took a human life, who wanted to know how Faramir learned about other stars, and who has often wondered how Faramir obtained the blue mantle. Thank you to Alawa, who knew how much honey to put into the mix.

Helluin is Sirius. In HoMe I and II, Helluin is also Nielluin, ‘the Bee of Azure’, ‘burning nigh the foot of Telimektar’ (Orion), and his comrade in the earliest versions of the story of the Swordsman of the Sky. He follows Telimektar ‘like a Blue Bee’, both of them warding off evil. The title is taken from that of a fragment by Wilfred Owen.


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