"Until we were ready..." Therion echoes, then stretches and rubs his neck. "This is a lot to have to be ready for. And there's something I don't understand." He looks around at the gathered Silhouettes. "You've said that you came here a thousand years ago, but--" there is soft laughter and guilty glances around the study, and the answer comes from behind them. "That is because we still count the passage of time in our years. In yours," Bea chuckles softly as she takes Malfoy into her arms in a loving embrace, and Therion shakes his head. "I don't think I want to know what the conversion is...I don't think I could get my mind around it." Bea releases Malfoy, then places a hand on Perdurabo's arm as she moves passed him to embrace Snape.
It is so good to be in her arms again. Her warmth and comfort, so like a mother's, gives him strength and encouragement. She would take them all into her arms at once, if she could, she loves them so. Elsbet looks up at Therion. "What is time, really? Elrond was three thousand years old when Isildur cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand. How many generations separated Isildur and Aragorn? How long had the One Ring lay in wait, until Sméagol acquired it? A thousand years? More? So...what is time?" Bea gently strokes Elsbet's hair, smiling down at her. "There's something I don't understand," Layne says quietly, "why didn't my parchment tell me about Uriel?" Perdurabo sighs and looks at him apologetically. "A full blood scrivening would have, but Theobald was never properly trained in the art. His results are accurate, one hundred percent, however, they don't tell you everything your blood knows."
Remus rises stiffly and takes the tea offered to him, and gives a cup to Tonks. He notes the way the Silhouettes look at her, with wistful little smiles and misty eyes, and while he's curious, there are other things demanding his attention. "So, when the parchment says something is 'lost to genetic memory', it's just that it can not fully interpret the information?" Amadeus nods. "Yes, exactly. The information is out there. Or," he grins, "in here," he indicates the trunk on the table, full of scrolls. Elsbet, clearly deep in thought, sits down on the floor and rubs her knees for a moment, then asks Perdurabo when he received the Orthanc-stone. He gazes at her for some time before answering.
"On the day you were born, my dear one." He looks away from her for a moment, then up at Snape. He wants to say something to him, something profound, but he refrains. Now is not the time nor place to bring her up. Shiver can see a dozen different questions swimming in Elsbet's eyes and knows she wants to asks them all at once. "I wish we could find the other stones," she says, innocently. "I mean, other than the Stone of Emyn Beraid, that one is beyond us. But the others...the ones that were lost..." Something seems to race through the study, like the zing of excitement, and Therion finds his heart racing. "What?" He looks around at the Silhouettes and at Perdurabo. "Do you know where they are?" Layne asks, and the Old Man nods impishly. "Two of them, anyway."
Elsbet seems jolted suddenly and springs back up onto her knees, her face bright and eyes shining. "Where are they? Which ones? How did you find them? Can we--" Perdurabo laughs, as do Bea and Capadocius, and Snape helps her rise then pulls her into his arms to calm her. "We have the Master Stone, and the Stone of Amon Sûl," Perdurabo says, "but the Stone of Annúminas is still lost." Capadocius looks up at the ceiling of the study and seems to be chewing her words. "Well," says she, "not still lost, really, more like...lost again." The Old Man closes his eyes for a moment and suppresses a reply, and after a brief but intense silence, Snape's family begin asking questions. All except Snape, who seems as though his mind has suddenly wandered.
Perdurabo lets them chatter, but Bea hushes them and says, "one question at a time, and I think I can answer them all without you asking them." All eyes but Snape's turn to her, and once she has their attention, she tells them, "long before the city was founded, before it became a Sanctuary, this was a small haven. There were still intelligent Dragons in Middle-earth then, and those that had defied Sauron and survived the War of the Ring had settled in this area. There was one great old Dragon of whom the Elves were very fond, by the name of Escellion. She was ancient and incredibly wise; she knew what the stones were, even knew them each by name. She knew things that no other dragon did, and none could say why. She passed the knowledge on to her chicks, and it was because she had the wisdom to do so that the haven was saved."
Bea pauses as food is brought out and eagerly shared, and more tea is served. As everyone, Snape included, settles back down into their seats, Bea continues the tale. "One day, as the legend goes, her twin daughters--they hatched from the same egg--were out hunting together when they sighted armed warriors approaching the haven. They knew from what their mother had taught them that their home was in terrible danger; the men were Haradrim." Therion coughs at the mention of the name and nearly chokes on his fish. Layne pats him hard on the back as Malfoy reaches over to him. The bookmaster shakes his head and, still coughing, says, "Gods, not the Oliphaunt-riders..." Bea nods, and once he has recovered himself, she says, "indeed. The very same. Fortunately, by that time there were few of those monsters left, but the Haradrim were just as deadly on foot."
Snape notes that Perdurabo does not eat, though he clearly wishes to, and so concerned is he that he finds it difficult to concentrate on the story. Bea touches him gently, rests her hand on his shoulder, and Snape sighs deeply as she goes on. "The twins turned back toward home and their cries alerted their older brother, Incundus, who met them at the southern boundary of the haven. Incundus was extremely protective of his sisters and his mother; the twins were little more than hatchlings when their father was slain by Easterlings searching for riches to plunder. He remembered how his father had suffered before he died and how terribly his mother had grieved. He put himself between his sisters and the Haradrim and tried to fend the intruders off alone, but he wasn't alone long. His sisters had gone to their mother, and within minutes the Elves who tended the haven came to his aid."
More tea is brought out and the family considers what they've learned thus far. Therion still can't fathom the span of time, and Remus nudges him teasingly. "The confrontation quickly became a battle," Bea continues, "and the Haradrim drove them back to the haven. Escellion was prepared, however, and she met them head-on with flame and claw. Together they drove the Haradrim back, but her ferocity only convinced them she was guarding some treasure. During a lull in the fighting the Elves discovered Escellion had been wounded. While tending to her, she told them that she carried three stones of great value in a pouch in her throat, and it was the stones the Haradrim wanted, but they must never possess them. Incundus kept his sisters from the sight of their injured mother, but when she coughed up one of the stones he snatched it up and swallowed it before it could roll away."
Elsbet sniffles and wipes her eyes, looks around at her family, then up at Bea. "I know this story," she says, "my father told my brother and me when I was very little...Incundus asked the Elves to watch over his mother and sisters, then drew the Haradrim away from the haven by pretending to be hurt. He took wing, drawing them ever deeper into the woods, but the Elves had allies in those woods and the Haradrim didn't get far." Bea nods and asks her if she remembers the rest of the story, and the Elf maiden winces. "No," she sighs, "not really. I wish I could...I think he said that Escellion had to go underground to sleep and heal, and her daughters were hidden away deep inside the haven." Malfoy and Snape both rub her back and Malfoy kisses her sweetly.
"That is exactly right, Ellie. When she took to her chamber she made a vow that while she slept her magic would protect the haven and all within it, and she never broke that vow. Not even..." the Great Mother takes in a deep breath, "after she died." Snape's family looks around at each other, and Snape notices the other Silhouettes have receded back into the darkness. Perdurabo appears to be sleeping, but Snape knows he's wide awake. Something is happening somewhere in the City... "Escellion died, never seeing her children again?" Tonks asks, suddenly weepy, and Bea says softly, "yes, much to the sorrow of all. Lira and Lute holed themselves up in a cavern beneath a mountain, and Incundus never returned. And wherever he is, the Stone of Annúminas is with him still."
Remus, puzzled, comforts his wife, and Therion and Layne push around the empty plate that had held the delicious sandwiches. The rim of the plate is scalloped, and the decorative pattern along the edge of it...Layne runs his finger along the smooth edge, then looks at Therion...it is a Dragon, in a circle, its tail tickling its snout. Snape stretches and pulls the plate towards him and Therion fidgets in his chair. "Bea," he says, "where...where is Escellion's chamber?" Bea's eyes glint and she smiles. "Beneath us." Layne looks from the plate to Bea and says, "the great Dragon's bones are beneath us?" Perdurabo says almost sleepily, not opening his eyes, "yes, and so is the Master Stone."