He looked at the small object in his hand. The light of the fire danced over the surface of the crystal ball, painting golden glowing points on it. Even though he knew that it was warm, nearly too warm in these rooms, he felt freezing cold. Shivers were running up and down his spine, tears burning in his eyes and his fingers were shaking slightly as he examined the snow globe.
It'd been years since Restaráto had taken a look at it, years which had formed and changed him. And now he felt as if he was on fire since the moment he had laid eyes on it while cleaning and tidying his room. He had not expected to find it nor had he been prepared for how much it would affect him. Memories were revived, old as time.
He shook his head and put the globe on the table in front of him. The shining crystal reflected the light onto the dark wood while the snowflakes were dancing on the inside. But he ignored it, walked tothe other side, opened the cupboard and took out one of the bottles filled with golden liquid which where glistening quite promising right now. He didn't want to think, to remember or, worse, to see all those memories again, those he loved and cared for, the places of his childhood, in his head. He refused to deal with his past and all his regrets which had only grown over time instead of diminishing into nothingness.
The sound of the liquid burbling against the glass and the sharp smell of alcohol pulled him back into the present, away from the faces that had begun to look at him quizzically and pitifully. He sat back down on the armchair, unconsciously brushing over the velvety fabric.
When he had been a small child back in Valimar, he had gotten the snowstorm globe from his beloved father as a gift. The taste of strong alcohol interrupted his thoughts and he coughed. An annoyed look hit the glass, but he still took another sip, this time prepared for the strong burning in his throat.
The ingle crackled and he leaned back, watching sparks fly and then die down, vanishing like fireflies. Golden hair seemed to appear in front of him, warm silvery eyes, a loving smile.
"Atar", he whispered in a broken voice, reaching for the figure in front of him with his free hand. But all too soon this vision dissolved under his longing fingers. Restaráto smiled bitterly and sighed, shaking his head over his own naivety.
A knocking on the door caused him to stiffen.
"Enter!", he said more calmly than he felt. Golden hair was the first thing he got to behold and his heart wanted to jump out of his chest.
"Ada", he was greeted and he blinked to regain his composure. "I wanted to say goodnight!" The high, all too well-known voice helped him to relax a little bit, although his strain and jumpiness were not yet willing to let him go.
"Finduilas", he murmured and stood up, putting the glass on the table before he stepped towards his only daughter. "I wasn't expecting thee this late!" The look she gave him told Restaráto that his child already sensed something. But, to his relief, she did not enquire or say anything. Instead she stepped forward and hugged him. Carefully he put his arms around her, tenderly stroking her head. The softly whispered "I love thee!" caused his chest to become tight and warm.
"I love thee, too!", he whispered in response and closed his eyes. For one sole moment he wasn't cold, and there were no memories lurking in the shadows of the fire, no dancing figures, painfully familiar, tormenting him with his own regrets.
When Finduilas let go, she smiled softly, so much like her mother, with the same wrinkles around her beautiful sky grey eyes which she undoubtedly inherited from her grandfather, since her mother had had light green ones.
"Is Winter haunting thee again?", she suddenly asked the moment she was about to leave left through the door. Worry shone brightly in her eyes. "A little bit, maybe", he answered evasively. But if anything was haunting him, it was Summer, when his wife and Finduilas' mother had been slaughtered in his absence. Of course he knew that Finduilas thought of the Helcaraxë, of the biting breath of that ocean of despair they'd walked over. But that wasn't what kept Restaráto awake at night nor was it influencing his thoughts and opinions. But he would never burden his sweet little girl with what was really hurting him day after day, year after year.
"Shall I ... I mean, shall I ask someone to bring more logs of wood?", she asked almost timidly, swallowing visibly. "I am fine, tyënya", he told her reassuringly. "And it is much too warm anyway, dost thou not think?" She nodded with hesitance. The smile he gave her felt plastered on his face. "But sleep well, my sweetheart!"
"Sleep well, too, Ada!"
She left without questioning him further. He went back to his chair, sat down and took up his glass again. He was grateful to have such wonderful children and especially to have such a close relationship with them. His son was staying in Nargothrond with Restaráto’s elder brother, getting instructed in the high art of politics by Findaráto, since Restaráto could not explain it all too well to Haldir. And his elder brother was exceptionally gifted when it came to teaching others. Though not utterly unsuited for the task he did not consider himself destined for teaching and preferred to have someone else responsible for it, in fact, if he believed his siblings, he was a brilliant grey eminence and strategist - not that he was believing such nonsense.
Another sip of his glass and his gaze was drawn to the snowstorm globe again. The corners of his mouth twitched and he closed his eyes. There were again strands of gold blonde hair, silvery eyes and the warm familiar smile.
"What is my darling son thinking?", he believed to hear, and searing pain stabbed his heart. Of all the children of Earwen and Arafinwë, he was the outsider by looks. His silver blond hair, the delicately chiselled features and the smaller build he had inherited from his mother's side. He was a Linda and his favourite pastimes and likings weren't giving any other impression either. His siblings were all a mixture between both folks, Noldor and Lindar. Findaráto was crafty and one of the Lambengoldor, always willing to learn new tongues and dialects and to discuss those matters to death. His younger brothers were both hunters and good at carving, Angaráto was even good at forging though never rising to the heights the Feanarian branch of the family had reached. And Nerwen ... even she had the mind and wit of the Noldorian kin. But Restaráto ... he always seemed to be the only one who hadn't got anything from that part.
Sure, his father never ceased to correct him. Arafinwë had told him every time that he inherited many things from Ornatar Finwë.
"Art thou again doubting thyself, Artaresto?"
Deepest longing filled his heart and caused tears to well up.
"Thou seest, thy grandfather is not the greatest craftsman of the family. He never was but he had a quick mind - too quick if thou askest thy maternal grandfather - and the ability to listen and guide the people. He was able to use politics, to keep peace between all those ambitious and aspiring lords and ladies without staying in the centre of attention. And this gift, my son, runs in thee, too! Thou mayst look and act more like a Linda more often than no but thy heart and thy mind are those of my kin."
Restaráto missed him. It was such a profound feeling that he believed it was tearing him apart. Of course he loved his mother and was probably her favourite child, except Findaráto- not that she would ever admit that - but in fact, he was closest to his father. Even though he never would say it aloud but it was also one of the reasons why he was so close to Findaráto. His brother was so much like their father by looks and character that it pained him.
And sometimes, when Findaráto was beaming with optimism and trying to soothe him when he was losing all hope again, he desperately wanted to believe that it was their father holding him and telling him everything would be fine. It was easy to deny reality when this illusion was so authentic. He loved his brother and of course he knew all the differences that made him unique and different from their father and he loved Findaráto for what he was and not for his striking resemblance.
The golden drink was empty too soon for his taste and he stood up and, instead of only refilling his glass, took the whole bottle and put it on the table.
His hand brushed the globe unintentionally, hard enough to have the diamond dust swirl up. A dry smile made the corners of his mouth twitch. Inside and outside, the rule of winter was strong, he thought absent-mindedly, his gaze wandered to the window, where ice flowers were blooming, sparkling unobtrusively in the light of the fire. He sank back into the cushiness of the armchair.
"Thou knowst that thou art my favourite?"
His mind seemed to have found a liking for tormenting him with his own memories. A frustrated and vexed sigh left his lips and he took another sip.
Tears welled up and he brushed them away harshly. Restaráto saw himself, much younger and more insecure, in front of him, his father kneeling there, holding his hands and smiling warmly. The age difference between all siblings was great enough so that the elder ones were already grown up by the time the next one was born.
"But Findaráto ..." - "Oh, I love him, too, but thou art my little boy, my sweet, sensitive, little boy, Artaresto. And how could I not adore thee? Thou art so precious to me, dost thou not see that?"
Arms were put around him, held him tight and soft kisses were pressed on his hair. Those silver eyes were glowing like Telperion at the height of his daytime. "But I am not even talented ...", he dared to say dispiritedly the picture of his elder brother always clearly in mind as well as those of his elder cousins. The soft laughter interrupted his thoughts.
"Darling, thou art talented, canst thou not see?", he was asked by his father. Fingers stroked softly over his hair. "All the rhymes and fine poems thou createst and thy talent for figures are the gifts that thou possessest. Findaráto, for example, had quite some troubles with all of these." The laughter was present in his father's eyes. "Thou wilt do wonderfully, Artaresto, compare not thyself to the others. They were the same at thy age. Insecure and always questioning themselves "
A peck on his cheek and the grip around him loosened. Even though he still felt depressed, it wasn't as bad as it had been before his father came.
"Atto?", he asked, his hands buried in the sleeves of his shirt.
"I love thee!"
He felt how tears ran down his cheeks. The smile his father had given him was unforgettable. As well as his advices which he missed like nothing else. The more years passed by, the more he regretted listening to his father and that his siblings had been influencing him that much, too.
"Thou needst to take care of them, Artaresto. They need thee more than they want to admit, my darling son. They are boisterous, not thinking ahead when it comes to the really important things and will act hastily and inconsiderately. And thou hast the gift of guiding them without actually speaking. Stay with them!"
He had always wanted to make his parents, his father proud. To become all that his father could've hoped for. But he'd never been, always had always stayed behind his siblings. And he'd never been able to get over his petty jealousy that was driving him mad. He should have stayed in Aman. Everything would have been easier, so he thought, giving in to the lures of alcohol.
His mind was spinning. There were so many words he wished he'd said. Questions unspoken. And he regretted deeply that he'd never said anything at all, too scared what they could have caused and what light it would have shed on him. He never wanted to disappoint anyone. And still ...
Another sip, and his thoughts became bolder and more blurred.
What would his father have said if he had questioned him? If he'd asked those things that lingered on his mind? If he'd asked, why he hadn't stayed with them? Why he had left them after the messenger of Mandos had delivered the curse? Why had his father demanded of him, of all his children, to stick with the family?
This feeling of being lost and helpless was not availing at all. And there was no possibility to ask his father. He could no longer hear him, not here on the other side of the ocean.
He shook his head, noticing how foolish his thoughts were. If he'd never gone to Beleriand, he would never have met Fuinar, he wouldn't have his daughter nor his son. Those years of happiness he had shared, this feeling of being part of her kin, and not torn between the kin of his parents ... these things were not in vain.
And still ... for more than three centuries those thoughts were bothering him. He refilled his glass again while the fire was slowly dying. The sounds of cracking and whooshing thundered in Restarátos ears.
Maybe it was better the way it'd been. He did not want to imagine the expression of his father's face nor what he would have said to his questions. If he was honest to himself, he wouldn't even be prepared to hear his father's opinion. If he had ever really been ...
Restaráto gripped the bottle, his fingers slightly trembling, while he tried to push the cork back into the bottleneck. It became a surprising and unwanted challenge and his intoxicated state wasn't helping one bit. When he intended to get up, his head started to spin and throb. Sighing, he left the bottle on the table. He knew himself that he would let it fall down, and the contents of it were too high-priced right now for him to waste it in such a way.
How he got to his bed, he didn't know nor how he got undressed but he couldn't have cared less. All he wanted was a dreamless sleep and bittersweet oblivion.
It wasn't what he had expected. It wasn't even anything that he had assumed at one point. And he wasn't sure if he should be relieved or angry or both. There had been no warning ahead, nor a sign that they would come in the near future.
But his head seemed to explode anyway no matter what he would do. He hissed orders less polite and friendly than they normally were. Started with preparing rooms for the guests over getting the necessary groceries for the kitchen. Why did they have such a horrible timing? A day later and there wouldn't have been a problem, and of course he would have been sober and without this searing pain in his temples. He forced a smile on his face and walked downstairs, nearly tripping because his concentration was as best as ever. And when he entered the frontcourt, he discovered the familiar looking mare and close to it the familiar figure of his brother.
Why his brother ruled a kingdom no-one knew. He was seldom present, always travelling, always his curious and fly-by-night self. He was a brilliant ruler, but Restaráto couldn't help but think of him as irresponsible more often than not. But that was Findaráto. A restless spirit who wasn't able to accept that their family was scattered over this continent, separated bya blade, pain, betrayal and ice. They would have killed each other if they'd tried to live in one house again like they did back in Tirion. But that was one of Findaráto's characteristics that proved him to be unlike their father. The wanderlust of their mother's kin was sometimes overbearing.
But then he spotted another familiar figure and sighed heavily. Haldir was standing next to his uncle, the silver white hair braided, the dark eyes glowing. In his arm he held fir branches, something that did not calm Restaráto. Something was going on and his elder brother had planned something - and Restaráto was sure he wouldn't like it.
The cold wind forced him to pull the thin cloak he had snatched up in his hurry to get to the frontcourt tighter around himself. He was cold to the point that he got goosebumps which annoyed him even more. The continuous throbbing in his head worsened his mood additionally.
Muttering to himself he stepped out into the freezing cold.
"As per usual thou art unable to inform anyone of anything", he greeted them coolly, staring dispraisingly at his son. It was satisfying to see Haldir cringing because he definitely raised him better than that. Not to speak of his mother. Maybe it had not been his best idea to send him to Findaráto instead of trying to teach his son again, having more patience and finding other words that might reach Haldir better.
"My, my, Restaráto, thou art in such a good mood", Findaráto replied and gave him a brilliant smile. "It's such a beautiful day, no snowing and the sun is shining surprisingly warm. What else couldst thou want?" Restaráto gave him a frowning look.
"Maybe information that thou hadst left Nargothrond with my child so that I could have prepared anything at least", he answered waspishly. His brother's smile wasn't wavering for one moment, instead he stepped forth, pulled him into his arms and held him tightly. At first he wanted to push him away angrily but the softly murmured "I am sorry!" soothed his anger and he returned the hug. The smell of freshly cut fir branches clung to Findaráto's clothes.
"What hast thou planned, brother?", he asked wearily after he let go of Findaráto. His will to confront his elder brother vanished with every throb in his head. "Oh, that's a surprise, dearest brother!", he was told enthusiastically.
"Of course it is a surprise! How could I not know this?", Restaráto said wryly. "Can't we skip the surprise?"
"But I have got something for thee!", his brother grinned and ignored his objection. "Thou wilst like it, I know for sure!"
He sighed heavily. "With what have I deserved this?", he wondered loudly.
An arm was laid around his shoulder and he was pulled along.
"Haldir, come on!", Findaráto called and went on walking inside.
"I know that thou art freezing", he was told more seriously than Restaráto had expected, and he became stiff. "Give me not that look! I am not blind nor stupid. And it's not like I would like winter's cold at all. I am only glad that it is a comparatively warm one with less snow than I've feared."
There was warmth in those silver eyes with slivers of worry. He sighed and his lips began to twist downwards. "Thou knowst that thou canst come to the south anytime thou wishest?" The soft and sensitive tenor made him swallow heavily.
"I know but someone needs to take responsibility", he said, unable to forgo the pointed remark. "And who else wouldst thou trust with the rule over Minas Tirith?"
"I would find someone if it is thy wish to leave the cold behind", Findaráto replied and watched him intensely. Sometimes it felt as if his brother would see straight through to his fëa. "That's an interesting offer but Finduilas is already used to Minas Tirith and so am I, I fear." They entered the house and went upstairs to the first floor where Restarátos private chambers and those of the members of their family laid.
"You would assimilate most easily", he was told and Restaráto stopped looking with not only surprise but growing irritation at his brother. "You?", was the only thing he could say.
"I respect thee, Restaráto, not to speak of loving thee. And I know that it is an emotional turmoil to leave behind the place one calls home but thou always hast done it with an ease I couldn't understand nor copy. Thou hast gotten used to this new world while I was still trying to get an impression of what was happening." The clear honesty in Findaráto's voice made him speechless.
"Thou art exaggerating so much that it is solely unbelievable", he commented dryly when he regained his composure. "Dost thou not have other, more important things to do than teasing me like this?"
"I am not exaggerating or lying, Resto", Findaráto answered too calmly, "but to admire what thou hast rendered, is necessary and important to me, and I've not done it often enough if you believe me able to speak untrue."
Restaráto shook his head but didn't reply to it. They reached his rooms and entered, and he immediately spotted Finduilas sitting there and being absorbed into her needle work as far as he could see. But when she finally noticed them she nearly jumped out of her chair and ran to them.
"Uncle Findaráto!", she shouted happily, already flinging her arms around Findarátos neck. Restaráto only smiled, slightly dryly over so much enthusiasm.
"How is my favourite niece?", his brother laughed, whirling her around.
"Now, very fine!", she exclaimed kissing him on his cheek before she turned to Restaráto. "Ada, why hast thou not told me that Uncle Findaráto would come?" Her enquiry forced him to raise one eyebrow.
"That is something thou shouldst ask thy uncle, as I had been unaware of it, like thee!"
He massaged his temples as the pain was only getting worse. Without saying something, he retrieved glasses and a water carafe, poured water into the glasses before he emptied it in one sip.
"What about if thou preparest something to drink and a little snack, Finduilas? I believe thy brother is quite hungry."
"He is here?" - "Certainly, how could I not bring him along?"
The swiftness of his daughter when being so eager never ceased to amaze him.
"She is beautiful", he heard the words spoken next to him and looked up. "Yes, like her mother", he said lowly, more gently. "Thou canst be proud of thy family. Both of thy children turned out really wonderful. But what else was I expecting with such a caring and doting father?"
"Stop this flattery", he chuntered even though he wasn't in a bad mood anymore.
Only the touch at his hand surprised him, seeing his brother take his hand, a serious, more grave expression on his face. He felt how something was laid in his palm and how his fingers were closed around it.
But when he opened his hand, he discovered a small sea shell, white with light brown spots, delicately swivelled, and obviously someone had polished it. His attention lay on the wristlet to which the shell was attached. He shook his head, not really believing what he saw right now.
"Why?", he only asked.
"Because it reminded me of thee when I found it on the beach at Brithombar. It might seem small and if you aren't paying attention you might overlook it ... but it is charming and precious in a very inconspicuous way. And it reminded me how blessed I am that I have nearly all of those I carry in my heart close to me, and that it would have been incredibly harder if I hadn't got thee by my side, Restaráto. I simply wanted to show my gratitude 'cause there is no greater obligation than saying thank you", Findaráto explained softly. He looked nervous, a little bit disarranged. Restaráto swallowed but never looked aside.
"Thou art welcome, as thou shouldst know best", he murmured, unsure of what he should say.
"It's not a matter of course, my darling little brother", Findaráto whispered and hit a point in Restaráto which caused tears to well up. His reaction seemed to confuse his elder brother but he was making an even more surprised and confused sound when suddenly Restaráto hugged him and buried his face at his chest.
"What's wrong with my darling brother?", he heard, and his heart was beating harder against his chest. Arms were put around him, one hand buried in his hair, tenderly stroking his head. "What is wrong, Restaráto?" He could feel Findaráto's worry but he knew if he tried to speak, his voice would break and he would become a sobbing mess. It was too much for him, already affected by yesterday evening and his old snowstorm globe. And he hated being oceans apart, not being able to see him ever again, still being the young child on the inside no matter how much he tried to be grown up.
"Oh my, what has happened to my darling son?"
Blood ran down his knee and tears dropped from his chin. Hands pulled his own ones aside and a golden glow was illuminating them. He could see how the bleeding stopped and the pain vanished. The healing hands of his father used to work wonders.
"What's wrong with my darling little son?"
Restaráto sniffed. "I fell", he said brokenly.
"Oh, but then thou wert courageously facing the pain", he was told softly. "I think I have something for thee as a token of such courage." His father winked at him with a warm smile and picked him up.
He was carried to the great living room where he could see his Uncle Feanáro speaking with Ornatto. His father put him on the couch, still smiling tenderly before he turned around and seemed to gather something from the great book shelf on the other side of the room. When he came back with something hidden behind his back.
"Thou knowst I love thee dearly?" He nodded eagerly.
His father gave him the thing and smiled brightly. With big eyes he examined the thing and he squealed enamouredly. There was diamond dust glittering like snowflakes in the sunlight, and with every movement it swirled inside the globe.
"Dost thou like it?", his father asked amused.