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Light from the West
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Dubious Characters

Dear Sam,

Well, Hathol has complicated things somewhat. Raven will not be staying with Tamsin now, at least not for a good while yet. She wants to stay at the Palace and help take care of her brother, for as long as it takes. Do you wonder we’ve lost our hearts to the girl?

Elrond dismissed Perion from Guilin’s service. He does not really think Guilin would ever harm the boy, but he is taking no chances--he told me he could just see Perion's mother storming in here claiming that her only son was being “put in mortal peril.” Perion was none too pleased, at first, but I think deep down he is relieved, having confided to me once that Guilin was “of a gloomy-doomy sort for his liking,” and had a way of lowering his eyebrows and striking a dramatic attitude that could be rather unnerving, and also there was “something about fiddlers that gave him the willies.” But he said he was willing to stay with him because...note this...“it was what Sam would have done.”

But Elrond said he must appoint an adult to attend him, and finding one who was willing would be the tricky part. And Northlight has volunteered his service! I could hardly have been more surprised--he had once told me Guilin reminded him of his brother Darkfin, both in appearance and character.

“I am far stronger than I look,” he said, and by way of demonstration he walked over to a very large stone statue of a dog meant to represent Huan, and before anyone could speak, he had wrapped his arms around it and lifted it as easily as though it were a live puppy from its basket. I had to suppress a laugh at the way Lord Elrond’s eyes popped. Anemone grinned impishly at me and then to him. Northlight carefully set down the statue and then patted its head, and I did laugh then. So did Elrond.

“Very well then,” he said, “consider yourself appointed. But why do you wish to do this?”

“Perhaps I can make myself worthy of Raven that way,” Northlight said, reaching for her hand.

“You are already plenty worthy, I should say,” I told him, and Raven nodded in emphatic agreement, then shyly fingered a lock of his hair.

“But does HE think so?” Northlight said. “I will come home twice a week and keep up my work on the grounds. I—”

“Never mind that, Northlight,” I said. “We will see to the grounds. You shall stay here as long as you will. And may Anemone stay with Raven at night, until after the wedding, Lord Elrond? Only at night—she will not interfere with the treatment, but I do not like to think of Raven being alone in her bed.”

Raven made a sign to indicate that she would be all right, but I could see that she really wished to have Anemone there.

“She may,” Lord Elrond said. “But only at night, mind you. I shall move Guilin to another part of the Palace, so that--”

He stopped as Raven gasped and motioned frantically.

“She does not wish to be apart from him,” Northlight said. “She is not afraid of him.”

She made more signs.

“She says he must be where he can see the Beacon,” Anemone said. Raven nodded. “She wants him near the garden, and near her.”

“I think he will be all right where he is,” I said. “Northlight can protect her if need be.”

“I will sleep in the adjoining room,” Northlight said. “There is a couch there which is very comfortable, and I need no blanket. Is there a stone dog like that anywhere else in the Palace, sir? I should very much like to have it in the room.”

“You may take it with you,” Elrond said with a smile. “I would offer to assist you with moving it, but I dare say you need none.”

Lyrien had made the Guilin-doll wearing his old motley costume, saying she liked it better. In the clothes he wore now, he looked like any other elf, she said. I told him this when we went to deliver the doll. He chuckled a little, but his eyes still looked despondent. Raven insisted on Guilin keeping the doll in his room. It would help him, she was sure, although he confided to me it made him a little nervous.

“What if it’s Hathol looking at me?” he said, picking up the poppet and eyeing it balefully. “I hate the sneaky bastard. Why he insists upon occupying my person, I still haven’t a clue.”

“Lord Elrond thinks perhaps it is your way of trying to escape your memories,” I said.

“In that case, why is it I can never remember him being there?” he said testily. “And he seems to do me no good, anyway. I’m still stuck with the memories after he takes his leave—why doesn’t he take them with him? All he does is get those around him rattled at the sight of some stranger taking over my body. I guess Lord Elrond told you Daeleth has left the Palace? You didn’t speak to her of my house-guest, did you?”

“No,” I assured him. “Lord Elrond noticed you looking her way, and warned her off. I was going to ask you to tell her yourself.”

“Well, I would have done so eventually,” he said, “although, as you now know, promptness is not one of my virtues. I suppose she’s going about the City now, spreading the word that Lord Elrond is keeping a dangerous lunatic in the Palace, without even chaining him in the dungeon. If there IS a bloody dungeon here.”

“There is, but I do not think it has been used for centuries,” I said. “And I doubt Daeleth will spread anything of the sort. She isn’t like that. And even if it isn’t to be Daeleth, there will be someone…when you are ready for her.”

“Did I tell you,” he said with a wry grin, “that Seldirima has got it about that her father withdrew his consent for our marriage, on the grounds that I am ‘of a dubious character’? Nithron told me, just the other day, when I ran into him in the City. Her way of saving her own face, I suppose. She's putting on quite a show, complete with hand-wringing and wiping away tears, but Nithron says that acting is definitely not in her blood. Well. At least she is unaware of just how dubious my character really is. Both of my characters, for that matter.”

“Perhaps you should try making friends with Hathol,” I suggested. Where that idea came from, I’ve no idea.

“I beg your pardon?” Guilin raised thick black eyebrows.

“Well,” I said, “perhaps if you ceased to regard him as a menace, and came to view him as a sort of respite…maybe he would go away, or cease to be. If you would reconcile yourself with him, offer him a sort of truce, he might, well…stop holding himself apart from you. Who do you suppose he is? Did you ever know anyone by the name of Hathol when you were younger, perhaps?”

“Not that I can remember,” he said frowning. “Do you mean to tell me you think I can kill the blighter by making up to him?”

I laughed a little. “Well, I wouldn’t put it that way. I think he may be a part of your own being with whom you somehow became estranged early in life, and he wants back in, and perhaps if you learned not to fear him, but to welcome him…then that lost part of you might become found again, and would help you in some way. It’s just an idea. I suppose it sounds daft, but…well, he does not sound dangerous, after all. It’s not been reported that he actually harmed anyone, merely unnerved them because he was in the wrong body.”

“Well, I don’t know of any better explanation,” he said, shaking his head, then picking up the doll once more. “But I would be content if he would just piss off and leave me in peace, myself. It’s hard enough being one person, I bloody well didn’t ask to be two.”

I went to him and laid an arm about his waist, and leaned my head against his shoulder for a moment. The afternoon sunlight was harsh on the doll’s scarlet cloak.

“I wish I could heal you myself,” I said, “but I must leave it to Lord Elrond.”

He brushed his hand across the top of my head, then let it rest there.

“You’ve done your part,” he said softly. “You got me here. Now it’s up to others to do the rest. And they've damned well got their work cut out for them.” Then he looked at the doll with a little more affection, fingering the red cloak, then he took it into Raven’s room and set it on her bed-table with the other four.

“He belongs there,” he said looking back at me with warm eyes, “along with his family.”

I smiled.

Three more days!!!


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