Chapter 25: Rávamë
I fell through the darkness, my dream-self’s hair and clothes flying up around me as cool air gusted upwards. I’d been fully prepared for utter exhausted unconsciousness, so it was a bit of a surprise to find I still had enough presents of mind to see the ground of my subconscious rushing up towards me.
I didn’t scream, but I did brace myself for the impact of hitting the earth. Instead of a hard crash and a painful landing though, I fell lightly straight down onto a bed of grass as soft as an etherial feather pillow.
Admittedly, I landed face down, but you can’t have everything I suppose.
I stayed there for what seemed to me like a long while before rolling myself onto my back, my mind surprisingly calm despite everything I knew to be going on outside. I felt like my thoughts should either be running at full speed still, or too exhausted to even be aware of my surroundings. Instead I was somewhere in between, staring up at the impossibly beautiful star covered sky my mind had created as a safe haven wondering whether I’d managed to save Boromir, and what on earth it was I’d seen through his mind’s eye while preforming the antacuilë…
I’d never imagined when all the medical texts talked about risking yourself as well as your patient they’d meant potentially getting lost in your subjects memories as you attempted to save them. I still wasn’t entire sure what it was I’d been seeing through him, but as much as I wanted to puzzle it over, I couldn’t right now. There was something more, something bigger that was preying on my mind now, and it was gaining momentum fast as I lay there.
As if she’d sensed my train of thought drifting in her direction, I blinked and Tink was there.
She stood over my head looking down, a perfect upside down mirror image of myself with liquid gold eyes and better kept hair. She didn’t speak, and I couldn’t read her expression clearly as I looked up at her lying flat on my back — it was lost somewhere between awed, impassive, and maybe a little worried.
Without a word she smiled tiredly, and offered me her hand. I took it, letting her pull me easily back to my feet.
As I straightened, I realised with a spark of recognition that were standing in the same plane where I’d first encountered her over two years ago. Rolling hills surrounded us in ever direction, blanketed with soft grass and shifting yellow flowers, spread beneath an inky night sky scattered with billions of far off stars and a full moon as bright as a floating lantern.
“I think I could grow to like this plane the best,” I murmured softly, unsure of what else to say as we stared up at the rolling nebula and far off galaxies. Tink’s weary expression shifted into the shadow of a smile, brushing a hand over the head of the yellow flowers around us.
“Me too,” she answered in the same quiet tone.
“Though the method of entrance could be improved upon,” I chuckled airily, trying to inject some humour I couldn’t bring myself to feel.
I needed have bothered, Tink clearly knew what I was feeling, probably better than I did. Her expression didn’t chance, though her eyes glinted with repressed words. I bit my lip, looking away from her unsettlingly searching stare. Silence drifted between us before I worked up the nerve to ask the first on my list of questions — a list that was growing steadily in the wake of what had just happened outside the safe haven of my head.
“Did it work?” I asked, almost inaudibly though I know she heard me clear as day. “Did he survive?”
Tink took a moment before answering with the same reverent solemnity I had.
“I don’t know.”
I nodded, accepting the response, endlessly frustrating as it was.
“What about us? We’re still alive, right?”
She answered that one quicker, and with more strength.
“We are,” she said firmly, and I heard the familiar notes of disapproval and sharpness mix with the more unusual weariness.“Though that’s relatively speaking. You knocked us down pretty good with what you did, boss. That fight, that heroic shambles of a rescue, and I’d be amiss as a survival instinct if I didn’t point out that was a hell of a lot of power you poured into that antacuilë. We’re all but running on fumes now.”
I turned to regard her thoughtfully at that, an eyebrow slightly raised.
“You think I should have done it differently? Let him go without trying anything?” I asked without malice or anger. I was too tired for that, and so was she I think.
Tink didn’t answer me immediately. She sort of shifted beside me, swaying like one of the hundreds of yellow flowers swaying in the gentle breeze. I watched the conflict on her face with an odd soft of fascination and narrowed eyes, waiting for her to respond.
She wasn’t behaving how I’d been expecting, or how I’d known her to react to my past rash decision making before.Anger, sarcasm, a lecture stuffed to the gills with biting wit — any of that would have been perfectly within her character. But this…
Her gold eyes met mine again as she chewed her lip — a nervous mannerism I recognised as one of my own.
“Boss, what you did…” She began in a voice that was unsettlingly sombre, and faintly nervous as she looked at me,“you must know that letting that much energy into a antacuilë should have killed you. It would have killed anyone else. You know that.”
I hadn’t know that actually.
Oh I’d suspected that might have been the case, but that hadn’t seemed all the important at the time. There had been a chance to save Boromir, and I’d taken it. Nothing else had mattered. However, now that I was hearing it said aloud, it sounded as if there was another point she was trying to make by telling me that — beyond how foolish it had been of my to try. There was something else I wasn’t seeing…
I looked around at the bobbing heads of the flowers, and up at the swirling constellations overhead, as if to remind myself of where we were.
“But it didn’t,” I murmured slowly. “We’re still here, you said it yourself. We’re still alive.”
“Then how? If what I did should have killed us, how are we still here?” I asked, looking back to her, as if her face could provide me with the answers that she couldn’t. But her expression and bright gold eyes were a mask, one behind which I knew there was something struggling to get out. I continued to watch her, feeling as though there was something in her expression I should be looking for.
“Was that you? The reason the antacuilë worked and I didn’t die?”
Tink didn’t quite shake her head, but she did incline it slowly but pointedly in a negative gesture.
“That was all you, boss,” she told me soberly, and sounding honestly just a little impressed — that was definitely a first.“I just… gave you a little extra help powering the battery, I suppose.”
“You… how?” I asked again, not fully understand how something like that was even possible, let alone doable. “You’re meant to be a part of me Tink, a survival instinct. Anything you draw upon, power or knowledge, it’s supposed to come from me… doesn’t it?”
I was met with only a blank stare. A half exhausted half frustrated sigh escaped me and turned to face her squarely, almost nose to nose.
“Please Tink, try and help me out here. What are you really trying to tell me with all this?”
She shifted uneasily again, a pained look shadowing her face as she obviously struggled with some barrier or verbal leash I couldn’t see.
“You’re asking the wrong kind of question, boss.”
I groaned half heartedly, more out of weariness now than frustration. The message in that response was clear; she wanted to tell me but she couldn’t, not directly anyway. Just like always.
I ran a hand down my face, wanting badly to do something to vent all the frustrations that were swimming through me, but I was just too tired.
“I’m tired of questions and no answers,” I said softly. Tink’s fingers found their way to mine, and she gingerly took my free hand, squeezing it gently.
I drew my hand away from my face and looked at her, her gold eyes so entirely different to my green ones, despite us being nearly identical in every other way, in both appearance and knowledge.
She knew what I knew. She was me, or at least a part of my. That’s what she’d told me over two years ago, and ever since then I’d been labouring under that nonsensical rule between us — having her subconsciously know something without being able to simply tell me. It had always been like that but something seemed different about the way she was showing it now, as if she was struggling to show me something without breaking that stupid rule of subconscious spoilers. She wanted to tell me badly, I could see it in her deliberately blank face, but something was holding her back — and she was desperately trying to work around it using anything but her words…
The memory I kept at the back of my mind of Galadriel’s words in the garden rang suddenly though my thoughts, back when she’d asked me if I’d choose to look into the mirror.
‘With no small amount of luck, and if you choose to ask the right questions, and choose the right person to ask,’ she’d told me
I hadn’t said the words aloud, but Tink seemed to know what I was thinking from simply reading my face. She gave a wry smile, her left cheek dimpling just like I knew mine did.
“You already have all the pieces, boss. Time to put them all together,” she told me softly, tentative hope lacing her voice.“I know you can do it. You’ve done it before.”
I’d done it before? Was she talking about Moria? When I’d figured out what she’d done to trap us in there?
I couldn’t be sure, but it felt like that was what she was referring to — prompting me to question her in the same way I had back then. To ask her something I hadn’t already.
I thought furiously as I stared hard at her, thinking back quickly over everything she’d said and done in the past few months. Every little thing that had nagged at me, annoyed me, made me laugh, every small detail that kept telling me she was more than just the personification of my survival instinct. She was more than just a primal reflection of myself. She was aware, conscious, had shown she felt more than just the drive to stay alive. She had shown she was capable of making decisions independent of my will, and had shown a willingness and want to talk with me even when she didn’t need to.
I looked at her. Really looked at her.
“What are you, Tink?” I asked simply, then stopped, thinking again. Then I added in a much quieter tone, hoping I wasn’t just taking a wild, useless stab in the dark: “Who are you?”
She didn’t answer immediately. She just smiled, the expression lost somewhere between childishly playful, and frustrated — but her amber eyes glittered with sudden, hidden excitement when I’d said ‘who’.
“You tell me. What, or who, do you think I am?”
“A pain in my arse,” I joked weakly, with a dry laugh. She smiled again with a soft chuckle, though the humour in it was thin.
“Besides that,” she said softly, the sudden excitement not leaving her eyes, and it was starting to border on unsettlingly intense. “Ignore everything you think you know. About me, about us, and look at what you actually know. What you’ve experienced, what you’ve seen. Then you tell me. What am I?”
I saw what she was getting at, though the words were strangely chilling despite their unhelpful vagueness. She was trying to get me to follow the train of logic — exactly like I’d done when I’d first figured out what she’d done to me outside Moria.
She was right, I had done this before. I could do it again, I could work it out. All I needed was to follow the train of logic: She couldn’t tell me who or what she was, not directly — but she’d already told me I had all the pieces to this huge messed up puzzle that was in front of me. She wouldn’t have been prompting me to think through all this so hard unless she knew I’d be able to figure out the answer. And the only reason she’d know that I’d be capable of that would be because…
Understanding hit me harder than any of the Uruk-hai’s sledge-hammer punches or kicks to my body.
She knew I’d be able to figure it out because I already knew who she was.
I already knew her name.
She had been right. I already had all the pieces in front of me — I just hadn’t been able to see past my own assumptions and prejudices to put all them all together as see what was in front of me.
I could feel more than see Tink’s watchful, sharp gaze on me as my mind raced, going back over every conversation we’d ever had, every word, detail, and unspoken hint she’d ever given me. My physical body might be unconscious, and I was only ‘awake’ in a dream world, but that didn’t stop my entire body from going cold with what was literally staring me in the face. It couldn’t be. It didn’t make sense, there was no way it was possible. But there was no other explanation, no other reason that fit all the pieces together. Even so, I couldn’t let myself relent now.
I had to be sure. I had to know.
Doing my best to keep my expression blank, I swallowed the frightened lump that had appeared in my throat, and I looked at the creature I’d so flippantly named ‘Tink’ all those years ago. The silly nickname was almost laughable now in the knowledge of what she truly was, or who she truly was…
“What happened during the fight, with the flames,” I spoke quietly, less for dramatic effect and more because I was scared my voice would give away exactly how terrified I was of being right, “that was you, wasn’t it. That was your voice I heard when I tried to scream.”
She nodded. Just once, and without speaking, her expression utterly unchanging.
“What was that exactly?” I pressed reluctantly further.
“A command,” she answered simply, though the look on her face told me that was a perishing over-simplification. It was small, but it was yet another little piece of this puzzle clicking into place. I kept my gaze fixed on her face, reading every twitch or subtle glimmer of a reaction as I plugged on, not daring to chicken out now.
I swallowed thickly.
“It killed the plants, everything within a few feet of where we were when it happened.”
Her lip twitched in the tinniest of smiles, tinged at the edges with a sliver of pride and a dash of bitterness.
“A fire needs fuel. Fundamental law of the universe, boss. You can’t create something from nothing. Only Uru Illvatar can do that.”
She spoke the last part of that statement with such reverent respect that I might have blinked were I not watching her so closely, my insides writhing and my mind racing.
“True,” I agreed softly, still not looking away as my metaphorical heartbeat quickened and my mouth went dry, “…but a Maia can, quote: ‘shape the world around them with a spoken word.’ That’s what they were created for. It’s what you were created for.”
I’d seen cadavers with less convincing poker faces than Tink had, but I knew my face and her eyes within them well enough to see what was stirring behind them. She didn’t look away, and neither did I.
“That second soul Frodo saw when he put on the Ring, it was different. Every time I saw a mortal’s fëa* through a link or through healing, it was pale blue just as he described. But the other…” I allowed my voice to trail off as we stared at each other, still unable breaking gazes.
It hadn’t quite sunk in until I spoke those words aloud, but now that I had it was clear as daylight after a storm — her silence hadn’t just been forced upon her by some unseen force, it been a hint. It had been her only way of prompting me on, encouraging me to pursue the one real clue to her identity she’d been able to give me all this time.
The name I’d heard whispered in the depths of my memory, the one she’d left for me where she knew I’d see it.
I took a deep breath I know I didn’t need here, but felt was important for these words regardless.
“The name of the Maia who disappeared in the First Age, the one you wrote in the sand, you wanted me to remember it. Not because it was mine. It was never my name…” I said firmly with complete certainty, the words not a question, but a statement of fact I could feel in my bones was true.
“It was yours. Rávamë is your name.”
I felt the change in the being I’d named Tink more than saw it. She didn’t move, or transform, or anything so dramatic. She didn’t even blink, but I felt everything around her shift in that moment, as if a long-locked door had just been allowed to creak open…
“Finally,” she breathed as if whispering an age-long secret, her golden eyes glittering with excitement from the reflection of my own face, “she’s got it…”
- To be continue in Book II: Compos Mentis -
* “fëa” — soul (Quenya)