She sat in her rocking chair, barely moving but for the slow tapping of one foot as it reached toward the fire and back again. Her eyes were closed and in her head she heard once more the eerie calling of the song of Arda, the elven music she had been privy to only once in her long ago childhood as she wandered lost through the deep green woods. She heard the music and stopped to listen, hearing the whole tune only once in her life and never forgetting a note of it. The fairies had found her and led her from the forest that very afternoon, setting her safely back on the path to home. She sang the song incessantly for a week after her return, until her father told her he never wanted to hear it again. After that, it had rung in her head, as it did now. When she grew and left home, she moved close to the edge of the forest, hoping to hear the song played by the fairy once more before she died.
Her fat, wrinkled body barely fit into the old rocker now, and her knees and arms ached with the chill of winter rains, but she could still move swiftly if she needed to. Her head swayed slightly with the music that ran through her head, eyes still closed against the sights of her small and dark cottage home.
The village people feared her, called her 'old hag' and only came to visit when they needed an herbal potion to still a disease or thought she should help them to harm another. They knew not what they asked of her at those times, that she would not comply. Instead she sent them hurrying off back to the village when she raised her broomstick in anger. They called her 'witch' and rumors spread of her powers. Those that she sent away, made up stories in anger, until quite a legend had grown. According to that legend she was now one hundred and fifty years old and was a great student of the black arts. In reality, she was neither.
Her head swayed gently to the music, her eyes closed, her foot barely moving toward the fire and back again. A smile perched gently on her aging lips and she felt the presence of Arda once again.
She'd seen him but once, on a clear night many full moons ago, as she sat on her stoop catching the cool breezes after a hot day. She was humming his song and he came to stand at the edge of the forest, head tilted, listening. She kept her eyes only slightly turned toward him, feigning ignorance of his presence as she continued to hum his song. He stood in the shadows, but the blue of his skin glistened in the darkness. He didn't speak until she was finished.
"Where did you learn that song?" His voice lilted across the yard on gossamer wings and landed gently on her aging ears.
"In the forest when I was very young," she answered shyly.
"You've lived here for many years. I've never heard you sing it before."
She was surprised that he knew she was here, surprised that he'd been listening. "I sing it in my head," she told him softly.
"You say you heard it only once?"
She nodded, somehow knowing that he would see her do so even in the dark of the night.
"Yet you know it without error." It was a statement, something almost mumbled to himself.
"It's a very beautiful tune," she had said, and then she had boldly asked, "What is it called?"
"It is my own song, the Song of Arda," he answered, then he added softly, "You should not sing it aloud again."
He disappeared into the forest then, melting into the shadows to become one of them. She never saw him again but there was always hope that he would play for her once more before she died.
She let the music take her away from the cabin then, far away into the forest, deep within the realm of Arda. The music played in her head and she smiled a gentle smile. The wind began to mutter against the creaky old hut and she paused for only a second to be sure she wasn't going to have to tie down the shutters. But the wind abated and stilled once more. And the music began to rise.
She stopped breathing and listened. This time it wasn't in her head. This time it was coming from the forest. She stiffly rose, and shuffled to the door, bringing it open as quietly as she could, pulling her tattered shawl around her to try to stop the cold.
Across the yard, over by the trees, he stood, shimmering blue in the night. He never wavered as the tune was played clear, bright, full of promise and mystery. His song. The Song of Arda.
Suddenly she realized he was singing. The words. She'd never heard the words before. Only the tune. She sank to the stoop and listened, her eyes never leaving him. His lute played softly, his voice sang clear, telling how he'd been forced to fight in a great battle, the death of his father and mother, and finally of his coming to the forest, leaving all behind him save this song. And she understood. She remembered the song because his story was her own. They were joined by the music in the stories of their lives. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she listened and remembered. Sorrow for times past rolled over her as the words told their story.
But the words began to tell more, how his life became peace in the forest, how life held new meaning and hope, how it was that he could sing the song without hate or pain because the memories could not harm him any longer. He had found peace in the forest as she had found it at its edge. Her sigh of joy was felt across the yard and into his heart and he paused his singing.
"Yes," he said softly, turning to look into her face. "Yes."
Then he melted back into the trees, becoming the shadows once again. She waited for a time, then stood and shuffled back into her hut, shutting out the cool night breezes.
She sat in her rocking chair, barely moving but for the slow tapping of one foot as it reached toward the fire and back again. Her eyes were closed and in her head she heard once more the eerie calling of the song of Arda. Only this time, she heard the words as well as the music.