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Story [The Silmarillion] "This Taste of Shadow", Ficlets and Drabbles, updated 7/02!

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Mira_Jade , Jan 31, 2013.

  1. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Cael-Fenton -- welcome! You are so correct about doing Tolkien's work justice. [face_love] @};- I think Mira shares the Great One's DNA ;)
     
    Cael-Fenton likes this.
  2. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: Thank-you so much! I just love writing about family bonds, and I am glad that theirs came across clear. [face_love] [:D]

    earlybird-obi-wan: Why thank-you! [:D]

    Cael-Fenton: I cannot tell you how happy reading your review made me. Thank-you ever so much for the kind words! And, if you want to see more of Eärendil and his mortal son, well, this next post may be just up that alley. :p [:D]


    Once again, I am sneaking in under the wire to write for the NSWFF prompt Walls. This update is pretty much a continuation of my last two posts, simply because this era of the Silmarillion tugs at me something fierce. :p Each of the four segments below were supposed to be a thousand words a piece, but they quickly . . . grew. :p Ah well, apparently my muse had a lot to say on the matter. A lot. ;) As always, I thank you all for reading, and hope that you enjoy my latest offering to a truly amazing world. [face_love]





    "on earth as it is in heaven"

    CLVI. Walls

    The first time the Vingilot touched the heavens, Eärendil had not been able to breathe.

    We shall fall, he had thought irrationally; his faith wavering in the face of the endless span of stars and night and nothing before him. Even as his hands tightened about the helm and he braced for a plummet through the skies, his sails filled with the touch of a celestial wind and the deck swayed as if he truly sailed upon an ocean of water. Now his sea was that of firmament, and where once the stars had guided from above, they now welcomed him as companions - leaping and playing like dolphins in the coastal waters.

    Up close, the vastness of space was not black. Rather, it was every color imaginable - dancing from the darkest blue to violet and crimson and green. Vaporous trails of silver and gold dust followed the stars in their tumble, and Ithil was like an old friend to his starboard side, nearly close enough to touch – close enough that Eärendil could see the Maia's face, scarred and pocketed as he turned away from the far off Sun long enough to incline his head in greeting.

    And Eärendil stared, his jaw agape and his eyes unblinking. He felt as if he was a child staring at the sea for the first time, amazed for the pull of the tide and the roll of the waves. This, this was . . .

    Where no mortal has ever gone before, Varda had said as she touched his brow, anointing him with her power. And yet, you are not merely mortal. Are you not, Eärendil, son of Tuor, beloved of Ulmo?

    For all the grace of her gift, he knew the reasons she had behind it. He knew that she watched him as Aman tightened about him like a noose, the eternity Elwing chose stretching before him like a void, wide and yawning. He had completed his task for the good of all, but his quest had taken all from him, and he selfishly dwelt on how he could reclaim but a fraction of what he lost.

    You will never again touch the shores of Middle-earth, Manwë had whispered at his wife's side, his voice the clamor of the winds and the might of the heavens. Yet, you may sail the cosmos as you once sailed the seas, giving light as a star to let those still toiling know their fight has not been forsaken.

    You will hear with our ears, my son, Varda kissed one round ear and then the other. Power burned in her mouth, and her lips felt more like the touch of light rather than the touch of flesh.

    And you will see with our eyes, Manwë kissed one closed eye and then the next, and all Eärendil felt was the dance of the wind and an immense feeling of coolness in the wake of the Vala's touch.

    And perhaps, through this gift, we shall repay that which was lost in the smallest of ways. For the life of him, Eärendil could not help but think that there was sorrow in Varda's voice; shared pain and empathy. Her form was not wholly corporeal before him, flickering in washes of silver and white light – mimicking the play of the starlight he now sailed through. Her black hair had floated around the impossibly beautiful shape of her face, and in her eyes was the brilliance of the cosmos itself. Even so, he thought that he could see compassion therein as she touched his face one last time. He could feel the flare of her power – blessing him, opening the eyes of the heavens to see him as kindred, the same as she had first set the stars on their paths so many millennia ago.

    Manwë, white and blue at his wife's side, was more solid in form, nearly elf-like in the body he chose to wear. His hair was as white as the clouds, and his eyes were the painfully bright blue of a clear summer sky. Power poured from his strong figure and ornate robes, the same as the skies dancing over the earth itself. His features were sculpted and sharp, and yet, he was all the more beautiful for the severity of his countenance. He was a mirror for Melkor in all but coloring, Eärendil had heard whispered – they two being brothers as the firstborn of creation, first cast from Eru Ilúvatar's thoughts at the beginning of all things. He wondered if that likeness would be enough to prove Eönwë and his army triumphant when they finally marched upon the Dark Vala in the years to come.

    If not, all that I have done will be for naught, Eärendil thought, but it was impossible for his thoughts to stay hollow in the face of such power . . . such grace.

    When Varda stepped away, Manwë held out his hand, beckoning him to where the Vingilot waited. If the Vala heard any of his thoughts, he did not say. Instead he only inclined his head. Go, dear one, and go with our blessing.

    Now Eärendil did not know where to look first – at the glorious dance of the stars, or the land that stretched far and wide beneath him. The sea sparkled silver and glass-like underneath the light of the full moon, touching the bays and harbors with graceful silver light. Small tongues of gold burned in the night - fires flickering in their hearths, candles shining from windows, and torches glimmering from streetlamps. He could not settle his eyes on one place only; he could not take everything in at once.

    That was, until he came to a cove some leagues to the north of what used to be the Havens of Sirion. Ruins stood on a cliffside, abandoned by some lord of Men and since left to return to the wild grip of the forest. The ruins were inhabited by a band of elves, perhaps some three-hundred strong. There numbers were a fraction of what their might used to be, Eärendil knew, and his jaw turned tight at the thought – for not easily had the walls of Sirion fallen.

    And yet, it was down at the base of the cliffs that caught Eärendil's eye. On the sandy seashore, two children looked in delight over the silver star-stones that glowed in the light from above. Two taller elves stood watching them, a smile touching the mouth of the dark haired adult when the children's search for stones turned into their splashing each other in the warm summer surf.

    How long have I been away? Eärendil wondered, surprised for seeing just how much his sons had grown since last he saw them. He peered with Manwë's eyes, seeing his children awkward with added height (Elwing too had grown so tall so quickly by the grace of Thingol's blood – towering over him for two summers before he caught up with her), and their eyes bright with the vivaciousness of youth (and that too was so much like their mother that it hurt to see). They were so very different from the toddling children he had held when last he walked Sirion's shores. He now looked as one hungry on the two small faces, unable to turn away, even to look on the glory of the firmament around him.

    Time passed differently in Aman, and what felt like days was weeks, and months years. Had four years passed since Sirion fell? Five years? He could not tell, and yet, judging by his sons . . . They had to be nearly ten years of age now. Eleven perhaps, but not any older than that.

    He swallowed, and swore that it was the light of the heavens that made his eyes burn.

    Eärendil could hear a rumbling of awareness from the earth below. From one end of Middle-earth to the next, eyes rose to the heavens to espy the new star in the night sky. In reply to his flight he heard everything from murmurs of hope and rejoicing to a black feeling of awareness and challenge from Morgoth in the north. The Dark Vala laughed, as if daring his light closer, confident that it could harm him not.

    Eärendil made fists of his hands. He tilted up his head, letting the light of the Silmaril shine for all to see.

    And, finally, his light touched the seashore below. He looked down, hoping beyond hope that somehow his children would recognize him. That, perhaps, they would see and know . . . He hoped that they would know that they were not forgotten, merely beyond his reach, forever to stay so, and -

    Finally, one dark head looked up, and then the other. But while they looked up curiously – understanding that the new light above them was no mere star, their eyes were only wondrous. There was no recognition there in. No spark of filial emotion. A moment later, they looked back to their game in the waves, uninterested in the light of the Silmaril shining overhead.

    And Eärendil exhaled a breath he had not known to be holding. His chest hurt as if from a wound, but he could not figure how to stay the flow of blood.

    . . . and yet, his sons were not the only one to recognize his light in the night sky.

    Maglor and Maedhros too looked up. Where Maglor wore a look of soft awe and appreciation on his face, Fëanor's eldest son stood rigid and unyielding. It was as if steel coated his spine, preventing him from taking an easy shape. In that moment, Maedhros looked right at him. Eärendil stared right back, and he was certain that Maedhros knew. He knew, and he understood.

    Maglor stepped closer to his brother, and Eärendil listened with Varda's gift. He listened, and he heard . . .

    “At least the Silmaril shines in the heavens,” Maglor pointed out. His voice was patient, even where his eyes were pained. “It is now far from evil hands.”

    “Yes, but it rests not in our hands, and our Oath still stands,” Maedhros sighed. Belying the obvious anger in his voice, he swiped his hand through his hair in a gesture of frustration. His eyes were shadowed and haunted, burdened with many pains. Eärendil felt an uncomfortable wave of pity for the other man - an odd sort of twisting in his stomach, when for years he had known knowing nothing but hatred for the Kinslayers and their ways. For so long he had silently cursed them every time Elwing had a dark dream in the night, and in Valinor he had resented their actions whenever he returned to Elwing's tower in Alqualondë to hear her halls empty without the rest of his family.

    . . . and yet, such an absence was not wholly to blame on the sons of Fëanor. That he could admit to himself, at the very least.

    Anything more that Maglor would have said was interrupted by the children coming over to them. Eärendil looked, and felt a queasy sensation that he could not define when Elros looped his small hand through Maedhros' only hand, looking up as if to provide comfort for the elder elf's pain. Elros smiled widely, as if hoping to sooth what he could with his presence alone, and amazingly, something about Maedhros softened in reply. Eärendil swallowed, his question of whether or not his sons were cared for answered, even if the answer was little to his liking. He bit back his anger and jealousy, but it was a difficult battle.

    “You may stay out here stargazing,” Maedhros finally said. If he intended his words to be sharp, they only came out weary. “I have seen enough this night.”

    He turned, and after a look at Maglor, the twins hurried to follow him. Elros still tried to hold his hand, and Elrond stayed very close to his right side, looking up in concern for the turbulence in Maedhros' expression. Eärendil did not need the Valar's sight to see the affection binding them, and seeing the unconventional family below was akin to suffering a blow. It should be I they look to as such, he thought with a hurt too great to define. It should be I receiving those expressions . . . their childish cares. It should be I, and yet . . .

    And yet, Eärendil was far above them, and not once did they look up to see. What use was a new star in the sky when their guardian stood pained before them?

    Maglor watched them leave until he could see them no more, staring at where the surf rumbled up to sooth over their footprints in the sand, before erasing them completely.

    After Maedhros and the twins were out of sight, Maglor turned and looked back out to the sea. He seemed to be waiting for something, and Eärendil lingered in the sky, strangely summoned as the Fëanorian walked to where the water met the sand. He let the waves tug at his boots, gazing at where the stars painted the crest of the waves silver. Then, he sighed.

    As his brother had, Maglor found him with an unerringly accurate eye. He looked, and Eärendil had the strangest feeling that the minstrel was looking right at him. He blinked against the gaze, strangely feeling as a child before the might of the singer's presence.

    “There is no script for meetings such as this,” Maglor said a moment later. His voice was rich with power, projected to ensure that he was heard across the distance between them. Eärendil listened to the warm timbre of his voice, and listened closely.

    “If you could, I know that you would sail the waters rather than the heavens,” Maglor said. “I understand, then, that you have made it to the Uttermost West, and your pleas have been heard. You have also paid the price in bearing the hope of this world, and your sacrifice is the flight you now must maintain. A wall exists between the heavens and the earth, and yet, I will say what I can to breach it, for you deserve nothing less.”

    Maglor hesitated, looking down at the waves and then up again. “I know you wish to hear it not, but we do bear sorrow in our hearts for the destruction at Sirion. Your sons . . . they have been as a light in our darkened days, and I thank the One for the gift of them, even while knowing that they are a gift that we do not deserve. I . . . you must have such questions, and I have not the time to answer them, so I shall simply say this:

    “Your youngest is much like you. Elros is blessed by Ulmo, and he bears the sea in his heart. We can scarce keep him from the water, and already he builds up great fleets of ships on paper. He will be a master of ship-lore in the days to come, and the waves will grant to him much in return. He is so quick in his ways . . . so eager and bright with his passion and humor. There are times when we can scarce keep up with him, but it is exhilarating watching him grow. He reminds us what it is to be young again; young and eager for the days to come.

    “Your eldest is more sedate, serious even. Even so, he has a wry sense of humor that you would miss if you but blinked. He bears such power, a power that I cannot tell from Melian's gift in his blood, or from your own mother - for Idril was great in her own right. He bears the Sight, and the healer's gift is already strong within him. He will sooth many wounds in the time to come, and his wisdoms will shape the ages of the world. I am honored to have been allowed a hand in influencing him, as little as I may deserve it.

    “I . . . your sons are loved, Eärendil. They are loved, and loved dearly,” Maglor bowed his head, emotion choking his words. Eärendil stood very still, listening for his every syllable. “I cannot yet ask for your forgiveness; I shall not do so until a much later time in the ages of this world. But I will do this little, and take what comfort that allows me. I hope, in return, this brings you what peace it may.”

    His hands around the spokes of the helm were white and bloodless. For that moment he did not . . . he could not breathe, overwhelmed as he was. Eärendil looked down, unable to work around his suddenly dry throat.

    He could only observe with the Valar's gift; he could not speak in return. Instead he reached up and placed his hand over the holy light of the Silmaril, before slowly drawing it away. Below, he knew his star flickered in the night sky. He knew that Maglor saw, and Eärendil hoped that he understood.

    The weary, ancient lines upon Maglor's face softened. He bowed his head one last time, and then he turned to follow his brother. Eärendil loitered in the heavens, watching where they had once stood for a long, long time.



    .
    .

    It took another six years before the sons of Fëanor completely gave up on his return to Middle-earth, and returned his sons to the care of Gil-galad and their kindred upon the Isle of Balar.

    Eärendil watched from above, almost nervous in his vigilance during those first few nights they spent in the High-king's court. Life in Balar would be worlds different than the nomadic lifestyle they had known for the greater part of their days. Maedhros ever kept his men close to the coastline, detouring only for those few, nearly disastrous months when Morgoth stretched his hand out to Amon Ereb. The last Fëanorian stronghold was destroyed, and the brothers had lost his twins to Orc-kind for two, gut-wrenching days. His light had been red in the night sky during that time; nearly as red as Maedhros' cruel rage when he found the children again. So terrible was his might that even Morgoth's black filth had known fear for the fervency with which he had extracted his vengeance.

    Now Eärendil could catch but glimpses of those coming and going, straining an ear and endeavoring to make out what he could from the world below. Gossip reached him in bits and peaces, for the immortal folk of Balar were so eager for tales to tell that their stories were mostly just that. Eärendil heard everything from talk of his sons being assassins trained and planted to murder the High-king in his bed (never mind that the Fëanorians would not harm their own kind unless the Silmarils were involved), to stories telling how they were wild and savage for their years spent travelling the land (never mind that the Fëanorians had once been at the foremost of learning and wisdom as princes of the Noldor). Few stories rang of truth, and Eärendil waited, his heart in his throat for any sort of news – true news.

    At the back of his mind, he could feel his bond with his wife swim to the forefront of his consciousness as his thoughts dipped and spun. Elwing had been beside herself with worry once he grimly announced that Maglor and Maedhros intended to let their children go – and his lack of news to report only furthered her anxiety.

    He bit back a mannish curse as he steered over Balar once more, once again hating the wall that existed between he and his family. He loathed it, this guessing, this lack of knowing, and -

    At long last, he caught a snippet of conversation from two Sindarin courtiers below. The two men were of Oropher's folk, he espied from the crests on their tunics, and he held his breath at their words.

    “Did you see how the younger one tensed when Gil-galad announced him?” the first one said.

    “Indeed I did! It was as if he was ashamed to bear his father's name,” the second agreed. “Though I do believe that it was the eldest who frowned so.”

    “No, the somber one is elder, the expressive one is younger.” Their conversation turned from anything useful, and Eärendil fought back a flare of temper for their senseless nonsense.

    “Indeed not,” the second disagreed. “I have heard it on good authority that it is the elder who wore the old Noldorin braids.” The younger, Eärendil thought, remembering Elros' queer way of copying Maedhros down to the last detail.

    “And I have it on excellent authority that that is the younger,” the first elf only smiled wider. Any more so, and his smile would crack from his face, Eärendil thought unkindly.

    “Are you certain? I am not so certain.”

    “Either way, it does not matter. Did the boy expect to be announced Fëanorian?” the courtier chuckled darkly. “Their time with the Kinslayers has ruined them. Nothing fair or honorable will ever come of their deeds now.”

    “Such a pity that is,” the second inclined his head, “to see such good breeding wasted.”

    “Elwing never was the same after Doriath,” the first did not quite agree. “Perhaps the blemish was already in their blood? You saw how often she fought tooth and nail with our esteemed lord – after all! She took a Noldor husband, and Noldor advice from Celeborn's bride! Their time amongst the Kinslayers only assured the exposure of that unfortunate flaw.”

    “It was inevitable,” the second agreed, a mock sadness leeching into his voice. Far above, Eärendil clenched his jaw. “And yet, if they keep mainly to Noldor business, I shall not care.”

    “Our lord will not allow for anything else,” the first said grimly, and at that they both smiled, as if relieved. Their conversation then turned to other things, and Eärendil turned away, disgusted. He had long known of Elwing's perilous hold over her father's people during her brief time as Queen of the Sindar in Sirion. She had been young, not even a century old in the faces of the ancient names around her. That, coupled with her own deepening obsession with the Silmaril had only gone to further the Sindarin belief in her incompetence.

    Eärendil sighed, weary for the flaws of his own people - and that was before he even let himself think about the threat weighing over them as a whole with Morgoth in the north.

    He cast his gaze further around the palace, a better understanding of the night's events forming in his mind. His sons had dwelt in Balar for nearly a fortnight, and it would make sense if Gil-galad held a formal function to introduce his children to the court. And, if that function did not go well . . .

    Worried now, he peered more closely, searching until -

    - perhaps the One heard the turmoil in his heart, for when next he looked, he saw the twins themselves on an outer balcony, clearly seeking to escape the noise and ruckus of the gathering within. He blinked, taken aback by seeing both of his children in formal robes, with silver circlets on their brows and their hair glossed and ornately braided for the night. While still young, they were not quite children, hovering as they were in that awkward place between childhood and adulthood. They were both tall, with gangily limbs that had grown faster than they could keep up with, while their features were just starting to sharpen with an adult's more pronounced definition. Their eyes were Elwing's eyes – Lúthien's eyes - even as they more and more resembled what Eärendil knew of his own grandfather. His ability to know Turgon, reborn from the Halls, was one of the blessings Aman did offer, he thought with a sad fondness.

    He looked, and found it easy to tell them apart when Elrond sat thoughtful and calm, and Elros paced agitated and restless before him. Elros fiddled with the long sleeves of his robes, tugging on the heavy brocade as if by doing so he could fit it better upon his body. Eärendil winced in sympathy, he having ever favored the loose and comfortable fit of a sailor's garb over the trappings of the court. That, he had gladly left to Elwing.

    “It was not intended as the slight you take it as,” Elrond was trying to placate his brother. Eärendil leaned over the helm, as if doing so would help him hear better.

    “Was it not?” Elros turned on his heel, disbelief pinching his brow as he stared at his twin. “Oh, what a tragedy you have endured,” he pitched his voice to uncannily mimic the courtier Eärendil had overheard earlier. “To have survived so long in a camp of Kinslayers. To have persevered. To have endured. However did you do so? Their words are laughable!”

    “They do not know what we do,” Elrond said diplomatically. His voice was a low, neutral tone. “They have known not one Kinslaying, but two from the Fëanorians. They will only let themselves see the body count left in their wake.”

    “Each conflict was as much the fault of Doriath and Sirion as it was the fault of the Fëanorians,” Elros returned, indignant. “So easily are the great deeds of renown our guardians accomplished in trying to unite this land against Morgoth forgotten. Maedhros fought more than any other to unite these peoples against Morgoth, and his accomplishments were a feat neither Gil-galad or Oropher or any of the other pandering lords here have ever come close to. What was it that enabled the Sindar to live so safe and secure in their forests but for Noldorin blood and Fëanorian blades? It is a farce that their valiance is forgotten now – nay, it is an outrage!”

    “Spilled blood is fresh before them. They will not allow themselves to remember anything else,” even so, Elrond said his words mechanically, as if reciting from rote. He spoke, not from any real belief in his words, Eärendil saw, but rather, as a way to calm his brother from his rage.

    “Be that so,” Elros snorted, his eyes sharp with his anger. “I cannot abide it . . . to hear their names so exalted . . . here Elwing is lauded for her bravery in surrendering her life to Ulmo's grace, and Eärendil is revered as a hero for abandoning his family, for leaving his sons to the cruel mercies of the Kinslayers they so revile. It sickens me, to hear Maglor and Maedhros so demeaned while their names are held on high.”

    At that, Elrond was silent, Eärendil hurt to see. He had nothing to say.

    “They loved us,” Elros said, softer then. His voice lost its angry edge as grief bled through. “Those Kinslayers loved us, which was something our own parents could not manage to find within themselves. They cared for us, taught us, and they even forced themselves to let us go. Why? For us. They let us go because it would be the best for us . . . When did Eärendil ever put us first like that? When did Elwing ever care for us so?”

    Elrond was only silent in response to his words. Eärendil looked, and saw a grief in his eyes to match the pain in Elros' words. They both would have preferred remaining with the Fëanorians over dwelling with their kin in Gil-galad's keeping. They were not grateful and relieved for their return to proper elven society, rather, they each bore a grief to match what they felt when they left Sirion behind. Perhaps, it was a pain even more so with them each being old enough to properly understand and mourn the separation.

    His heart was heavy in his chest, for while he had long been able to convince himself that his was the only path he could have taken . . . the only course that was allowed to him . . . such things were never completely so. He had grievously hurt that which he was supposed to hold dearer than all, and he now had to suffer through the consequences, no matter how unintended such a hurt was.

    “Eärendilion, they called us,” Elros scoffed. His voice was quieter, free of its cutting edge. He stopped his pacing and sat down at his brother's side. From the calm composure on his face, Eärendil would guess that Elrond had been attempting to sooth his emotions through the whole of his tirade. He had finally succeeded. “Eärendilion,” Elros repeated, baffled.

    “That is what we are,” Elrond pointed out. “And Gil-galad amended his words. Peredhil, we are to be called. There are worse surnames.”

    “Half-elven?” Elros raised a brow. “While it shall not make me grind my teeth, it still does not assign honor where honor is due.” He glanced to the door of the balcony, making certain of their being alone – for all of his strong words and fierce speech, even he knew that some things were not to be spoken aloud. “Elerossë Nelyafinwion,” he touched his hand to his chest. His voice was little more than a reverent whisper. “Would that I be known by that name for the rest of my days. That, I would take true honor in.”

    Elrond raised a brow. “You mingle together the forbidden most impressively, brother,” he said. But there was no chastisement in his voice, only a subtle amusement.

    Elros gave a daring smile, hearing his twin's bemusement the same as Eärendil did. “Elerossë Nelyafinwion,” he repeated. “Nelyafinwion.”

    “Each time you are addressed else-wise, you need only overwrite the words in your mind,” Elrond offered wryly. “I am afraid that anything more will be beyond your grasp – and you shall only frustrate yourself in the years to come.”

    Elros snorted, leaning back to slouch against the bench. He tapped Elrond's arm. “Already you become an animal of the court,” he complained. “Soon you shall be as a stranger before me.”

    “I would say that I learned both subtlety and the nature of futility from an alternate source,” Elrond said. He was silent for a moment, and then he said, “Please do not think that you are the only one who mourns, for you are not alone in feeling so. You are merely more vocal with your thoughts.”

    Elros gave an audible sigh through his nose. His face softened. “I know that, brother,” he said gently. “At least I will always have you,” he said then. “I . . . I do not know what I would do without you to keep me anchored. You have always been a calm in the storm for me, and you have to know that I value you more so than any other.”

    They were silent for a long moment, both lost to their own thoughts – or even each other's thoughts, they needing little more than the touch of spirits to communicate. Eärendil was silent and still in the sky above, unsure what to feel . . . unsure of what to think.

    There were voices from beyond the balcony, and Elros sighed in reply. “I do believe that we have been found,” he said.

    “Is that fear I hear in your voice?” Elrond teased.

    “Of these wolves? It is absolutely fear I feel,” Elros admitted with a wan smile before rising to his feet again. Even so, his look was collected, and determination shone in his eyes. “Well then, I suppose that there is little we can do in delaying the inevitable.” His voice was resigned. In more ways than one.

    Elrond offered him a sympathetic look, and he too stood. Elros squared his shoulders and braved the din beyond them, but Elrond hesitated for a moment. He lingered, casting his gaze up to find his star in the sky. Eärendil had the uncanny sensation that his son was able to meet his eyes, to stare at him absolutely through the unfathomable depths of the cosmos between them.

    A moment later, he looked away.

    “Elerondo Makalaurion,” he gave on a soft voice. He spoke as if giving voice to a secret, dear and precious. Somehow, Eärendil could not help but think, he drew strength from the name. “Elerondo Makalaurion,” he whispered again, and then he joined his brother in braving the crowd.



    .
    .

    The sea was seemingly endless in its stretch around them. The horizon seemed no closer for their days upon the waves, and yet, the light of Gil-estel flickered above, ever assuring them of their path. Elros stood at the foredeck of the ship in wait, looking up at the darkening sky above them. The setting sun painted the sky in shades of red and flame, allowing the light of only one star to shine through – one impossibly bright star, flickering as a path of celestial brilliance through both night and day to lead them to the Land of the Gift.

    Elros looked, and wondered what the Valar were thinking when they set Eärendil upon such a course. While he was grateful for the blessings allotted to the sons of Men – his people now, in every way – he was still unsure what he felt about his sire being the one to lead them to their new land. All around him, wide mortal eyes looked at the sky in wonder, amazed for the honor that was paid to them with Earendil's guiding light, yet, Elros could not join in with their joy. He could not quite share their wonder.

    At least, he could not for Eärendil's course in the sky. He could understand and empathize with their joy for the land they were sailing to; the land that had been raised from the ocean in gratitude for Mankind's deeds of valor when aiding the Valar in defeating the Black Foe of the world. While he had known the choice of Men to be one already made in his heart, a choice of his spirit rather than a choice of his mind, he had not expected the crown of Númenor to be offered to him as a result – not when there were much older Men ready to take that mantle, all with great names and more respected family ties, all better set to rule than he.

    And yet . . .

    “While you have earned your crown though your deeds of renown and your ability to command, it is no empty gift that you are given. Rather, you are the only one who can rule such a collective realm of mankind. For you are the heir of the House of Marach, are you not? You bear Hador's blood through your grandfather Tuor,” Eönwë had pointed out, cool and irrefutable in his logic as he replied to his doubts. “Through Tuor you are also the heir of Haleth and her house. Through Beren your great-great-grandfather you are heir to the house of Bëor and all the nobility of his people. The first Three Houses of Men have all combined in one man. You, Elros, shall be the first of your name and the head of your own House, and your descendants will rise and fall from this side of the sea to the next.”

    “In deeds both great and terrible,” Elrond had added later, his eyes taking on the haze of the Sight. Since fully accepting his fey heritage, his abilities had grown in leaps and bounds, and Elros was happy for his brother and his gifts, truly he was. “Both the worst of humanity and the best will come from your line in the centuries to come, along with the one who shall eventually bring the might of our heritage full circle. Upon his head the crown shall lie, and through his grace all of the peoples of Middle-earth will be lead into a new age.”

    . . . yet, that was not for many years to come, and not even Elrond fully understood the visions he saw.

    Elros felt a pang, a now familiar one that came whenever he thought of his twin. Though over thirty years had passed since he made his choice, his relationship with his brother was still cool, where once it had meant everything to both of them. He was not yet used to such polite civility between them, and already he was looking forward to the years to come – certain that time would heal all wounds between them before his own time ran out.

    Whenever his thoughts swam as they now did, he was used to Elrond reflexively pushing him a wave of support and encouragement. He did not realize how second nature his bond with his twin had been until it was gone - for he had never particularly excelled in the mental arts, and if he had something to say he much rather preferred saying so out loud. He had never been able to communicate mind to mind with Maglor and Maedhros, or even Círdan and Gil-galad, unless it was a time of great duress. He had only ever been able to use that ability with Elrond, and now that their bond of souls was gone he felt strangely alone in his own mind. He felt as if he were missing a limb; feeling the phantom shadow it left behind whenever he reflexively went to use it. Such an absence was a chasm in his spirit where once there was only warmth and light.

    His thoughts were as a maelstrom, and he could not get them to quiet.

    “You look lost in your mind,” came a warm, deep voice from behind him. Elros glanced over his shoulder to see Manwë's herald approaching him from across the gangway.

    “The sea tends to bring such musings upon the unwary,” Elros replied. “I am simply another one of her innumerable victims.”

    His words made a small smile touch the mouth of the Maia. While Eönwë wore the form of a man – tall and strong, with ropes of muscle rippling across his body as befitted a master of arms – he was anything but. Even without his elven senses Elros could feel the sense of otherness rolling from his spirit. That, along with the celestial beauty of his face and form clearly marked him as one of the divine. Now he wore his golden-red hair back in a simple queue, rather than the ornate braids he had worn for war. Over his chest he wore a hauberk of glittering silver-gold rings, matching the silver vambraces on his forearms - each etched by Aulë himself to give the illusion birds in flight, rather than full battle armor. His hair seemed to give off the impression of feathers near the ends, and upon seeing so, Elros remembered the sight of him with his great golden wings stretching from his back as he meted out death and destruction on Morgoth's forces from above. Even now the memory was an awe-inspiring image.

    While the Valar did not have children in the sense that flesh and blooded beings did, Eönwë was the firstborn of the Maiar, created from the might of both Manwë and Varda so much so that he was commonly referred to as their son – the heir to heaven and the only begotten of the stars. Even now, in simple settings, Elros could not quite forget the inhuman might of the other man, no matter that Eönwë had spent the last few years teaching the sons of Men the wisdom of the West, preparing them for their reward.

    Now, the realization of their goals was upon them, and in two day's time they would see a great land rising from the sea. At the thought, Elros tightened his grip upon the railing until his knuckles turned white.

    The horizon held too many of his thoughts. He glanced up at the stars, but could see none of them over the light of Gil-estel in the sky, burning out a path for them to follow in the heavens. He caught sight of his father's star, and then looked away, unsure of where he wished to settle his eyes. He busied himself with staring at the grain of the wood underneath his palms, feeling the sway of the ship roll through him as he had not since he was a green sailor.

    Eönwë followed his gaze. He was silent as he came to stand beside him, crossing his forearms lazily over the railing, ever easy with his standing.

    “I have never told you, but I was the first one to encounter your father in Aman. It was my great honor to present him to my lord, and watch the events of the future as they were set into motion.”

    Elros blinked. Eönwë said father and all he could think of was the unearthly light of the second Silmaril, illuminating the expression of despair on Maedhros' face when he realized that he could hold the jewel not. Elros thought of endings and fire, and -

    He swallowed, for the few years that had passed had still not allowed that wound to heal. It was still raw against his spirit, and no amount of listening at the seashore for the song he knew was there could ever make it right.

    Nonetheless, he managed a polite, “Oh,” in reply. He would even consider Gil-galad and Círdan more of a fatherly presence in his life; with Gil-galad's patient care when he was nothing but hurt and anger, and wise old Círdan setting his path towards the sea . . .

    Eönwë continued to stare above, the fondness in his gaze the same for looking on an old friend. “It is a hard, strange path life has steered Eärendil down. Hard and strange indeed.”

    “No more so than most in this land.” Though he had long thought himself to have healed, a note of bitterness entered his voice. In the silence that followed he automatically listened for a song on the waves, a voice singing proud where his ruined hands could no longer work the strings of a harp.

    “Do you consider yours so?” Eönwë asked, genuinely curious.

    Elros thought for a moment, and then shook his head. “Strange, perhaps,” he answered. “There have been many pains in my life, but many blessings too.” Experiences and bonds he would not have if his life had gone 'easier'. “I . . . I do not remember my father.” The word felt awkward on his tongue, for while he bore Eärendil's blood, he had always felt as far away from him as the sea was from the stars. “I could never feel him in my soul as I could feel my mother. Even before Sirion fell I had convinced myself that he did not exist. It was easier than thinking that he wanted no part of our lives.”

    His jaw set at his words, not realizing how much they still stung until speaking them aloud. He looked up from his hands, and found that Eönwë was staring at him. He felt small underneath the Maia's gaze, small and childish. “It is true,” he said slowly, “that if Eärendil would have chosen a different path, then he would have kept his family together. And yet, for how long? For ten years? For a hundred years? How long would it have taken Melkor to push through the last remaining of Endórë's defenses before making his conquest of the land complete? Would your family have survived the Shadow then?”

    Elros' temper hardened at the words. He felt his anger spark. “The Noldor bore their curse for leaving the hallowed shores of the West against the wishes of the Powers,” he could not keep his voice from darkening. “But what of the Sindar? What of the rest of the Unwilling who never finished the March? What of the Dwarves . . . or Men . . . or every bird and fish and creature upon the land that called Middle-earth their home? Would your lord truly have let those fall underneath Morgoth's domination? This fight was the Valar's fight. It was to them to chain their wayward kinsman, and if Manwë's soft heart would not have let Morgoth free to work his evil so long ago, then many would have been spared, and many would never have had to experience the pains we speak of now. No, forgive me for not understanding the necessity of Eärendil's sacrifice. I do not understand why it was needed; I do not understand why the Valar could reign so proudly from so far away, while we endured through so much pain and heartache here.”

    Eönwë was silent for a moment. Elros feared that he had perhaps stepped too far, but there was no anger in the Maia's face in reply, only sadness - as if he were a parent trying to explain the darker parts of the world to an inquisitive child. “You have young eyes, and the eyes of youth do not always see,” he finally said. “And yet, our deeds are not our own to control. Everything the Ainur do is through the will and the insights of the One, and it was through His purpose that we did not act for as long as we did. We know each loss suffered upon Arda marred, from each wailing child to each sparrow that falls from the sky - and there are none who feel that pain more acutely than my lord. Of this I can assure you.” At the very end of his words, his voice turned hard. Elros clearly heard the warning there.

    Elros sighed, fighting the urge he had to pinch his nose in frustration – a habit that had been schooled out of him, for a King did not show such glimpses of his more negative emotions. “I am sorry,” he spoke as if around a knife. “We have been many days at sea, and I have had too much time to become lost in my thoughts.”

    He had too much time to think of the flames swallowing one, and the sea another . . . of his brother, not lost to him, but now so far away . . . of Eärendil above and Númenor waiting beyond . . . of the eyes of hundreds of thousands, all looking to him to lead, to never fail them as the Valar so had the lives of so many . . .

    He breathed in deep. He let his breath out slow.

    “You know bitterness,” Eönwë said gently, “But I would have you know that your father knows nothing but pride for his son. He shines his light all the more brightly over your path, for it is the only way he can touch you. He mourns that he must watch you live from the heavens, rather than sharing your life on the earth. He would give up everything . . . anything for that.”

    Elros swallowed, little prepared for the tempest of emotion his words seemed to turn in his soul. His breath caught in his throat, his lungs doing little to aid him in his breathing. He had not realized how much he needed to hear the words until at last they were spoken.

    “You knew my father?” he spoke slowly, as if trying to make sense of his words as he spoke them. His voice was a strained sound from his throat.

    “I know him very well,” Eönwë's gaze was soft. “And you may find that you do more so than you would first think, for you have his heart - the heart of a Man. Your choice would have been his had Elwing his wife not preferred a span of immortal days.”

    Elros took in a breath. The deck swayed underneath his feet, but no longer did it seem set to topple him. “Could . . . could you tell me of him?” he finally asked. “Anything?” Everything.

    Eönwë looked up at the light of Gil-estel above, a smile on his face as if he could speak to him from the sea below. There was no distance between them, and for a moment, Elros wanted the same.

    “We are still some days from land,” Eönwë answered. “I will tell you what I know in the time we have.”

    Eönwë started, and Elros listened, painfully aware of the Maia's every word. As he spoke, he did not look away from the light of his father's star above, nearly certain as he was that Eärendil was staring back at him. And, as the Maia spoke, the light seemed to turn all the brighter still.



    .
    .

    It was a season when the cosmos wheeled in the night skies.

    There was a storm of comets setting the horizon alight with its dance, passing overhead in colors of silver and golden flame. While there were often times in the late summer when such phenomena graced the heavens, this year was particularly exuberant in its vivacity; so much so that sky-gazers from Lothlórien had traveled to Imladris to see the celestial drama play out from the more clear ways in the mountains.

    Using the excuse of joining such a number of their people as they crossed the mountains, Galadriel and Celeborn too had made the journey, eager as they were to see their granddaughter while she was still a child of few years. The years of youth were but a blink in the eyes of an elf, so quickly gone and rarely experienced in the vast ages of their lives, and as a result, the couple had only dwelt in Lothlórien when strictly necessary – keen as they were to see Arwen though every step of her childhood.

    The valley was happier for the company, Elrond could not help but think. The Silvan from Lothlórien sang star-songs to the night sky, some amongst their numbers remembering the eldest of days when the stars were just starting to settle themselves in their path at Varda's command. They watched the new movements in the heavens now, their voices alight for the glory blazing on above them.

    He sat on one of the open balconies overlooking a great fall of water and a garden of roses, enjoying the company of his wife and her parents – but while those around him looked up at the stars, he looked to the balcony beneath theirs, to where Elladan and Elrohir were naming constellations and markers in the night sky to Arwen's curious, awe-struck eyes. At ten years of age, this was her first time seeing such a celestial storm, and her gaze was wide with wonder for the sight above. Such a thing was more captivating than anything the heavens had to offer, and so, Elrond watched his children, enjoying the bond he saw when the twins patiently corrected her pronunciation and understanding, they each finding patience in schooling Arwen that they found in little else.

    “That is the Valacirca, the sickle of the Valar, set by Varda to remind Morgoth and his servants of their doom, no matter how long they may work their evils in Middle-earth. They are a symbol that evil shall never stand while there is still light,” Elladan pointed out, guiding her hand to pick out the seven stars above. “Although Durin saw them shining over his reflection, and immediately dubbed them as his crown – to the Dwarves they are just as sacred a constellation as they are to us.”

    His sons' voices turned to a quiet murmur in the back of his mind when Celebrían laughed at something her father said, and Elrond brought himself back to the conversation going on around him. That was, until -

    “Ada! Nana!” Arwen's voice was an indignant sound, coming closer as she ran up the twining set of stairs that separated them. The twins followed close behind – Elladan with a scowling look that battled between amusement and annoyance, and Elrohir trying to fight back a look of fond exasperation.

    Arwen immediately ran to her mother's side, tugging on the sleeve of her dress as she looked back to dart an accusing look at her brothers. “El' and 'Ro are telling falsehoods again.” She set her chin in a stubborn look, her brow darkening impressively for one so young.

    Celebrían raised a silver brow in question, while Galadriel and Celeborn fought back smiles, not wanting Arwen to think she was being laughed at for her words.

    “Your years are too great for you to still be teasing your sister so,” Celebrían addressed her sons, for often times that was the heart of the matter.

    “But we were not!” Elladan protested, sounding more Arwen's age than his century of years.

    “At least, not this time,” Elrohir added.

    “Just because you do not believe it - ” Elladan knelt down to tug on one of Arwen's braids.

    “ - does not make it anything less than the truth,” Elrohir tugged on another.

    Arwen narrowed her eyes, peering very closely at her brothers' faces so as to search for a trick. “You are not jesting?” she asked, sounding honestly perplexed.

    Elladan was eye to eye with her for kneeling upon the ground. With the solemnity of a queen, she reached out to clasp his face in her small hands, looking very closely at his eyes.

    “I do not jest, little one,” Elladan answered, reaching up to cover her hands with his own.

    A moment later, Arwen nodded, satisfied. “Then, may you explain your words?” she asked gravely.

    Elladan darted a look at him, Elrond realized, curious now that he understood that his son was hesitant to speak where he could hear. Elrohir too was looking down, even with Arwen patiently waiting for their answer.

    “We were trying to explain to her that her grandfather is a star,” Elladan said after a moment, his every word carefully said. “She did not believe us.”

    Arwen huffed. “How can a star also be a grandfather?” She looked at Celeborn. “You are my grandfather, and you are here before me. It is how it should be.” With a child's logic, she tried to process the world around her.

    “Eärendil did not have that choice,” Elladan said simply. “And, he is not quite a star.”

    Arwen raised a brow. “I do not understand.” She looked to Elrond. “What are they trying to say?”

    Elrond blinked, taken aback by the subject as it was set before him. He had not spoken of Eärendil in many centuries, not since first sharing his tale with Celebrían all of those years ago. He assumed that she had told their sons, for they knew the story of Gil-estel, and yet, they never talked of their odd heritage from the heavens when he could hear. He never spoke of his father, not out of some long unhealed wound, but rather, because there was nothing to say. He reexamined the truth of that now, and found his answers little to his liking.

    At his side, Celebrían touched his arm, and he could feel the comforting brush of her spirit – she realizing what brought him pain even more than he consciously did, even if that wound was thousands of years old. A healer to all but yourself, she whispered into his mind, and he accepted the strength she offered as he turned to his daughter, leaning forward so that he too was eye to eye with Arwen.

    At first, he was not quite sure how to begin his tale – for some of it she did not need to hear until she was much older. Strange, he thought, that Arwen was older than he was when Sirion burned, even though her more elven blood slowed her growth in body, if not in mind. He swallowed against his memories until he was nothing more than a parent and teacher – pushing away the thoughts and pains of a son and child.

    “You have been learning your histories,” he started, and when Arwen nodded her head, he continued, “You then know of the foe we faced in the First Age?”

    “Yes,” Arwen answered grimly. “Morgoth Bauglir.”

    “And to defeat this foe, we needed to entreat the help of the Valar – a difficult task, for at this time there was no path leading West. My father was the one to find the Straight Path, sailing West to beg the Valar for their aid.”

    Arwen blinked, processing what he said. “Why did he not take you?”

    “He could not,” Elrond said simply, deciding to leave the tale of the Third Kinslaying for another time. “And neither could he return to Middle-earth when his task was complete.”

    Arwen's eyes were very wide as he spoke. She could not comprehend such a thing – for which Elrond was glad. He had fought in more battles than he could name for more years than he liked to count so that she could know such a peace. “Then, who raised you?” Arwen asked plainly. “Who was your family?”

    “I never wanted for role-models, or love, for that matter. Sometimes, families come in all shapes and sizes, as strange as they may first seem,” Elrond responded after a moment, thoughts of Maglor and Maedhros still bringing a pang of their own. He grew to love Gil-galad and Círdan dearly, and even Galadriel and Celeborn had done much in shaping his youngest years to the point where he did not have the words within him to explain how grateful he was for their influences on his life.

    He glanced over Arwen's shoulder, and saw that Galadriel's expression was very soft when she looked at him. Her look was mirrored by Celeborn, and he bolstered himself on the feeling of pride and fondness they both pushed to him.

    “Then how is Eärendil now in the heavens?” Arwen asked, still thoughtful.

    “Varda, the Starkindler, anointed his ship to sail the heavens with the Silmaril of Lúthien at his brow,” Elrond answered, knowing she would recognize the name of her ancestress - it was a story he could scarce keep from her. “It is the light of the Silmaril you see, rather than the light of a star.”

    Arwen blinked. “He sails above so that he may watch over you?” she ventured, uncannily perceptive for her age. “He could not come home, and so, he comes as close as he can.” Her voice was thick with sadness and empathy, and Elrond swallowed.

    “Perhaps,” he answered. “We do not know the precise reasons for Eärendil's flight, but that is what I like to think.”

    “It must be very lonely,” Arwen whispered, “to be up in the sky, all alone. Only watching . . .”

    “I have never thought about it that way,” Elrond admitted, glancing up at the turbulent sky above. Yes . . . lonely and beautiful both. A blessing and a curse. He swallowed around the thick feeling that had bloomed in his throat.

    Arwen looked at him, and without saying anything more she stepped forward and wrapped her small arms around his shoulders in a clumsy hug, offering what comfort she could to the turmoil she could feel emanating from him, no matter how well he thought to hide it. She kissed his cheek and then stepped back, looking at him in heartfelt relief as she said, “I am glad that you do not have to leave us as he did. I do not know what I would do without you.” Her eyes were wet and shining, clearly imagining how she would feel in his place.

    Not wanting her to feel grief for a hurt ages past, he passed feelings of love and comfort to his daughter, smiling when he felt her clumsily trying to do the same in return. “Nothing in this world would be able to tear me from you,” he made his vow, and Arwen smiled, relief encroaching on the corners of her gaze. "Nothing."

    A moment passed, and then Galadriel stood. Breaking through the weight of the last few minutes, she said, “Aduial is ready to begin capturing the light from this eve.” She looked at Arwen. “Would you like to see how he accomplishes his craft, young one?”

    Arwen blinked away her tears. “Would you mind?” she looked at her father, wanting to accompany her grandmother but unwilling to leave him.

    Elrond smiled, and wiped a wet cheek for her. “Go and enjoy,” he said. “It is a privilege to see Aduial at his craft. And,” he pitched his voice conspiratorially, “he is weak when it comes to a pretty smile and a charming presence. Ask, and he may even bottle one of the stars for you this eve.”

    Arwen's eyes sparkled at the thought, and, her grief forgotten, she turned to follow her grandparents. Elladan and Elrohir lingered a moment before they too turned to follow – Aduial and his skills ever a mark of fascination for them since their youngest years.

    Elrond watched them go, his heart full for the shape of his family. He breathed in deep, concentrating on that warmth, even as a slim pair of arms wrapped around him. Celebrían pillowed her head against his shoulder, and he leaned into her embrace, accepting the comfort she offered even before realizing the need for it.

    “Are you well?” she asked after a moment. Concern colored her voice.

    “I am not glass,” he assured her. “I will not break for sake of a memory.”

    “You have not spoken of Eärendil in many years,” she pointed out, ever insightful.

    He shrugged. “Not out of a wish not to speak of him,” he said. “Only for a lack of things to say.”

    She drew back enough to meet his eyes. Her look was piercing and wise, and after a moment he could not hold it. “At least,” he amended. “That is what I have long thought.”

    She was silent, waiting for what more he had to say. Her warmth held him as they sky did the stars, and he garnered himself on it. “I have never thought about it as Arwen put it,” he said after a moment, shamed for his lack of insight and perception - things he normally prided himself on. “It is indeed a lonely existence that Eärendil leads, to glimpse little more than stolen moments, and yet he gladly takes what little he may. I never understood my mother's choice until I was entrusted with Vilya,” for the protection of the Ring he wore, he would have to be prepared to give up even that which was dearest to him. The weight of such a responsibility had nearly ruined his courtship with Celebrían before it even began. She followed his thoughts in his mind, and her arms tightened around him. “And yet . . . Eärendil . . . I never knew him but for his absence, and now, to think about it in any other way is rather daunting.”

    “Eärendil's light has always shined brightest over Imladris,” Celebrían whispered. “Even that my mother has noted.”

    “I never let myself notice,” Elrond acknowledged, and the honesty of that statement was a pain of its own.

    To have an opinion of four thousand years turned aside by the insights of a child was humbling, but Elrond was wise enough to accept such corrections and learn from them. He drew in a deep breath, and looked up at the sky above. This time, instead of looking at the glory of the cosmos as it wheeled, he found Earendil's star. He stared, imagining that he could meet his father's eyes even with such a distance between them.

    Though he had never been able to feel his father in his soul – not the way he had been able to feel Elwing before the West voided that bond, or even the way he had grown in love with each of his foster-fathers - he now focused on that spark deep inside of his soul. It slumbered, untouched until now, but like blowing on an ember to give it flame, he awakened that bond. He concentrated, exerting the considerable power of his fëa into coaxing that presence into awareness. He focused . . .

    He could feel Eärendil's surprise when he was able to touch his consciousness from across the distance. He could feel his surprise – but also grief, affection, love – all mingling until Elrond was not sure which were his own feelings and which were his father's. The connection was brief, lasting but a moment before the distance separating them snapped the cord. Yet, it was enough. Elrond breathed in deep, and exhaled with the last of his bitterness and hurt.

    In response, the light of Gil-estel flickered above, greater than even the storm in the heavens.



    ~MJ @};-
     
  3. Cael-Fenton

    Cael-Fenton Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2006
    ....

    speechless.

    you granted my wish! :eek:

    I feel like this is the Tolkien fic I've been waiting my whole life for.

    :_|

    I just wanted to cry for Eärendil here! I can't imagine how much hearing that must have hurt.

    But you sort-of made up for it with the last two sections, mushily heartwarming as they were :p[face_love]



    edit: more comments ---

    I love how different the twins are. You really portrayed them as (despite their incredibly intimate physical and emotional relationship and psychic bond) being believably, in their deepest souls, of two different races which are destined to sundered until the world is renewed.

    Elros is so relatable, so human and vulnerable. And Elrond is no less loveable, but with that serene aspect of eternity to him.

    And the fact that their different natures were reflected in how they manage to find some connection with their father, in the end:
    Elrond, directly with his eleven-fey perception, a superhuman sensitivity we mortals can wish for when we're parted from those we love, but never knowing what having it would be like;
    Elros, going through the very human way of connecting with someone forever parted from us, through (someone else's) memories and stories, like seeing through a foggy glass rather than face to face, but where the glass is fogged by love.
     
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  4. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    beautiful, stunning[face_dancing]
     
  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh my gracious. I have to take this in chunks LOL because each needs to sink in and I need to wriggle my toes thoroughly in them separately.

    The first section - glorious, stupendous descriptions of the Valar and the new 'sea'. Maedros and Maglor -- I am happy they have effection for Elros and Elrond and the insights into the twins' characters, very well illuminated.

    ~~~!!

    How heart-wrenching - to feel rejection over a selfless hard sacrifice instead of gratitude and loved. I can totally understand how that would be the case, but it bites nonetheless. :(

    ~~~!!

    Eonwe's words are profound and true - showing a broader perspective. I am happy indeed that Elros was receptive to the intent and the truth behind them.

    I am touched indeed by the words about sparrows etc., and how the Maia and Valar are empathetic to the travails of those who struggle and make difficult choices. @};-

    ~~~!!

    What a treat this scene was: having Celeborn, Galadriel, Celebrian, and Arwen present and all together. Arwen - her wisdom and compassion are heart-tugging, as is Celebrian's. But the final realization and reaching across vast distances - gave me chills, dear one, the best kind. [:D] (Can't wait for the details on the E/C courtship.) [face_batting]

    ~~~!!

    I am replete with such abundant goodness, like each movement of a grand symphony more majestic than the last.

    =D= =D=

    [face_love] [face_dancing]
     
  6. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    First off, I have to say that you guys are too, too kind. I had no idea that one would be received so well. [:D]

    Cael-Fenton: I knew that I wanted to write about this, and then your request and the prompt just made for a perfect combination! [:D]

    I just wanted to cry for Eärendil here! I can't imagine how much hearing that must have hurt.

    I actually had that snippet of conversation written in my notebook from months ago, and this gave me the perfect place to use it. I'm glad it packed a punch. :)

    But you sort-of made up for it with the last two sections, mushily heartwarming as they were :p[face_love]

    :p

    I love how different the twins are. You really portrayed them as (despite their incredibly intimate physical and emotional relationship and psychic bond) being believably, in their deepest souls, of two different races which are destined to sundered until the world is renewed.

    That is my favourite thing about writing Elrond and Elros, and I am so glad that their differences came across believably! I absolutely love their dynamic, and the whole 'elvish' vs. 'human' never ceases to be a fascinating one to try to explore while writing. Again, thank-you so much for your kind words. I can't tell you how much they mean to me! [face_love][:D]

    I actually have one more story coming up in this arch, and that should be the next one up after I write for the NSWFF prompt here. :)


    earlybird-obi-wan: Thank-you so much! :)


    Nyota's Heart: Oh my gracious. I have to take this in chunks LOL because each needs to sink in and I need to wriggle my toes thoroughly in them separately.

    [face_laugh][:D]

    The first section - glorious, stupendous descriptions of the Valar and the new 'sea'. Maedros and Maglor -- I am happy they have effection for Elros and Elrond and the insights into the twins' characters, very well illuminated.

    Thank-you! I have a huge soft spot for select Fëanorians, and it just broke my heart writing that scene - for everyone. :(

    How heart-wrenching - to feel rejection over a selfless hard sacrifice instead of gratitude and loved. I can totally understand how that would be the case, but it bites nonetheless. :(

    ~~~!!

    Eonwe's words are profound and true - showing a broader perspective. I am happy indeed that Elros was receptive to the intent and the truth behind them.

    It's true! It's a choice that had awful repercussions for all involved - but also a broader reward for the good as a whole. That, however, is an insight that comes with age - and sometimes, someone older and wiser opening our eyes - as Elros learned here. [face_love]

    I am touched indeed by the words about sparrows etc., and how the Maia and Valar are empathetic to the travails of those who struggle and make difficult choices. @};-

    It's a never ending debate about the Valar and how much they care, so I had to add that. I am glad that line stood out to you. [face_love]

    What a treat this scene was: having Celeborn, Galadriel, Celebrian, and Arwen present and all together. Arwen - her wisdom and compassion are heart-tugging, as is Celebrian's. But the final realization and reaching across vast distances - gave me chills, dear one, the best kind. [:D] (Can't wait for the details on the E/C courtship.) [face_batting]

    That was such a self-serving post for me (especially since I am impatient for my Diary to get going to the parts that I really want to write ;)) - so I am thrilled that you enjoyed it! We definitely needed the sweet family mush to cap off that post, so I am glad that last part really struck you. [face_love] As always, thank-you so much for reading! [:D]





    Author's Notes: Now, this next post is set in the Fourth Age, and written for the NSWFF prompt: Three times a lady. I kind of went a different route with the prompt, but I am rather pleased with how it came out. We needed something happy and sweet after the heaviness of the last few updates, that's for sure. ;)

    As always, I thank you all for reading, and I hope you enjoy this latest offering to Tolkien's amazing world. [face_love]







    "third of her name"

    CLVII

    Though his years were many and stood to stretch on even longer still, there were moments amongst his memories that stood out as lights against the timeline of his days. Centuries had passed, and yet Celeborn vividly remembered the birth of his daughter. Even to this day, he could clearly recall the feel of her in his arms and the tug on his spirit as she found her place within his soul. He could remember the first time he held his grandsons; two at once, and marveled at the wide grey eyes that smiled up at him. Arwen's birth had been a bright spot of joy upon his years, and her solemn gaze had captured him as utterly as the moon did the tides.

    Though his feet were connected to the land and his soul was bound to the trees of Ennor, he could feel each year the sea separated he from his wife. It was as if there was a cord between them, stretched until fit to snap. While he did not particularly yearn for the hallowed lands of Valinor, and knew that he would find contentment in the forests of Middle-earth until the reforging of the world, he had bound himself to her long ago, and his vows had not been contingent on one place or another. Galadriel had endured many years in Ennor while her heart tugged her home, and she stayed until she could do so no longer. While he had promised to follow her across the sea, he refused to find the Straight Road into the West until his granddaughter drew her last mortal breath. Yet . . . he had not realized how acutely he would feel that time as it passed. He felt as if he was of mortal blood, conscious of each year and counting even the days as they passed. He felt as a tree flayed in a storm, his roots not quite as deep as he once thought them to be.

    And yet, it was moments like these that made that counting stand still. These were the moments that filled him with new purpose – with meaning for his lingering in Ennor. Amongst all life, birth was sacred and new souls cherished. And yet, children were a marvel to the Firstborn in a slightly different way, for thousands of years could pass without a new member of a family, and as a result each birth was taken for the blessing it was – a rare and joyful time for a race of immortal days.

    Arwen bore Aragorn a son nearly a year after their marriage, and her daughter Amdiriel followed soon after. Ten years later, their second daughter came as a surprise to the royal couple. Arwen had birthed her last child over the mountains, in Imladris while visiting her brothers, and Celeborn had to wait for the family to return to Gondor before journeying to welcome the newest member of his line.

    He had been able to feel the spirit of his great-granddaughter from his first moment entering the White City. It flickered as a golden light against his senses, both curious for his probe and hesitantly trying to seek him in return. He had blinked for the awareness of the child, already intrigued for the girl Arwen had born.

    In the palace, he was greeted first by Aragorn, who welcomed him formally before allowing himself to be pulled into an embrace. Celeborn had counted the man as his grandson even before his marriage to Arwen, beloved as he was from the long line of Dúnedain who grew to manhood in Elrond's halls. Behind Aragorn, in the sitting room outside of Arwen's chambers, Glorfindel was regaling Aragorn's eldest children with tales from Gondolin in the First Age – a story Celeborn was no doubt going to have to correct later, he thought with some amusement. Sitting next to Eldarion with her own son, and just as eager as the children was the Lady Éowyn, who would never pass up a chance to hear the half Vanya's tales. Glorfindel held a strange fascination for the shield-maiden upon finding out that she was the one to break his prophesy, and she had been smitten with the golden warrior in return. Now a strong friendship and understanding existed between them, no matter the length of years that separated them.

    Yet, he was not kept long with pleasantries before Aragorn waved him away, saying that there would be time to catch up later. For now, there was someone waiting to meet him.

    Upon entering Arwen's rooms, he could feel a sultry breeze drift in from the open windows, dancing through the softly fluttering drapes with the scent of sun-warmed stone and blooming summer flowers. Arwen was sitting with her daughter on the balcony, rocking the tiny babe and humming underneath her breath – a lullaby that he remembered Galadriel singing to their own daughter, a cradle-song from across the sea. For a moment he stood just watching them, his heart full in his chest.

    He found it hard to move from his stillness, that was, until he saw the pale gold crowning the girl that Arwen held. He blinked, curious, for he had assumed that this child would be born as dark of hair as her parents and siblings. And yet, he reasoned, Aragorn's own mother had dark blonde hair. It could be Hador's blood, or even the Vanya in the child coming to the fro. It was not too curious a thing.

    “I come bearing gifts,” he said as he approached – for the remaining elves of Lórien, few as they were, remembered their lady and dearly cherished her. Even Thranduil had added his own blessings and gifts from Eryn Lasgalen (muttering only to Celeborn his frustration with Legolas not settling down and giving him a grandchild or two to spoil), a fondness in his doing so – for he too remembered Arwen as a tiny child in her mother's arms, and wished her well.

    Arwen looked up, and the soft smile upon her face was enough to rival even the beauty of the summer sunset beyond. “You are a gift all yourself,” she said warmly in reply. She made to stand, but he was faster than her, and held a gentle hand upon her shoulder, keeping her in place. The return trip home was long and hard on both mother and child, he understood, and there was no reason for her to stand on ceremony now.

    “You need not stand for me,” he said, amused by the stubborn furrow to her brow – a look that was more Galadriel than anything else.

    “I am not glass to be so carefully handled,” Arwen returned, but she did not attempt to stand again. “And it is not I who wished to do so. Your granddaughter is restless.” Arwen's voice turned curiously as the baby squirmed in her hold, trying to turn herself around to see her visitor. “I believe that she felt you coming, as strange as that may sound. And yet, it is a most unusual daughter I have born.”

    Curious, Celeborn looked at the girl. The baby was carefully wrapped in a blue blanket, upon which the White Tree was elegantly stitched with painstaking detail. He accepted the girl when Arwen offered her to his hold, and he immediately understood what she had tried to say. Already the baby turned impossibly blue eyes on him, unerringly aware of his presence and solemn in face for her short span of life. Her fëa was already strong and pulsing within her tiny body, a flame all its own, golden and broad in might. While still mortal, there was fey blood aplenty in the daughter Arwen bore, and the cast of her spirit would be great indeed in the days to come.

    There was something heartbreakingly familiar about her eyes . . . her golden hair . . . She bore much of Galadriel's might within her, Celeborn could not help but think. Whatever of his wife's blood that had been sleeping in Celebrían and Arwen had come to the fro now, and the resemblance caused a bittersweet feeling to rise in him, both glad as he was for the continuation of her legacy, and grieved that she was not there to see it.

    “Aranes,” Arwen whispered, watching him hold her daughter with a great emotion in her eyes. “We have named her Aranes, for she shall be the wisdom and foresight behind her brother's throne when Eldarion comes to rule. The blood of the Elves runs strong in her, and she will live years longer than her siblings. She will live, and counsel the generations to come as a wise woman and healer both. This, even I have seen.”

    Aranes' eyes were blue and large, and so very familiar to him. He swallowed at the name, unable to form his thoughts for a moment. It had been years since his wife was known by Artanis, and yet, had she accepted a Sindarin name rather than the name he had bestowed upon her, Aranes she would have been. It was a great honor his granddaughter paid he and his wife . . . a great honor indeed.

    “I never expected to be so twice blessed,” he said, emotion thick in his throat. “You honor us, child.”

    He had felt joy and humbled gratitude when his daughter chose Arwen's name for her; for Arwen's name too translated the same as Artanis', they each meaning noble maiden, no matter the tongue they were given in.

    “You both have meant so much to both my husband and I. Beyond my wish to honor my mother, it is a fitting title,” Celebrían had simply said, looking down at the bundle in her arms. “She bears the nobility of a great many lines in her blood, and someday . . .” she had blinked then, as she often did when a whisper of premonition touched upon her. The whispers never took full shape, and frustrated, she rarely tried to deign the secrets her foresight whispered. Only now, with Arwen carrying the Houses of Men and Elves full circle with her marriage to Aragorn, did the words – did the name - carry the weight of its full meaning.

    Now, his only regret was that his wife was not here to greet her namesake. Celeborn reached out to sooth away the golden fuzz of the baby's hair, and allowed his finger to be seized by Aranes' curious hand. Warmth bloomed in his heart as he once again felt determination fill him, endeavoring to remember all that he could to share with those who could no longer be here.

    For a moment, Arwen did not look at him or at her daughter. Instead, she looked beyond the window, to where the western horizon was turning red with the day's end. She blinked, lost in her thoughts, before coming back to herself. “Though I grieve that you are not yet where you should be, a part of me is glad that here you remain. I wish . . . I hope that you will remember these moments . . . remember and someday share them.” She swallowed, emotion thick in her voice. “My father . . . my mother . . . my grandmother . . .” her voice failed her, and her eyes were shining. "I wish . . ."

    “I shall remember,” Celeborn made his vow aloud where before it had been silent. “I will remember, and share with them all.” It was not enough, he knew, and it never would be. And yet, it was still a balm to a great wound in the smallest of ways.

    “I thank you,” she finally said. “My words are not enough to explain how much they mean to me . . . but, I thank you.” Arwen took in a deep breath, fortifying herself. Then her moment of grief passed, and she was nothing more than a proud mother sharing her daughter with another. Her eyes shone when she looked on her child, but there was not only mourning in her gaze.

    “Aranes,” Celeborn tried the name out, feeling it leave his mouth with a rightness in shape. Galadriel had never quite fit into the name, and gladly had she cast it aside for another upon discovering the beauties of shadowed Ennor. And yet, the girl he held . . . he looked, down, and the child blinked her big blue eyes at him. Instantly, something within him was stolen. “Thrice your name has been given, and each time you have absconded with my heart with little more than a glance. I welcome you into both the House of Elwë and the House of Finwë, for there is no one left upon these shores who may speak for that part of your line. I welcome you, and pray that you remember the powers in your blood. May you endeavor to use the grace and wisdom of your heritage to shine a light all the brighter on the rule of your kin. You, young one, shall be a light in dark places when the world is absent the wisdom of the elves. Perhaps, through your children's children, we will be remembered, and something of our ways will endure.”

    He kissed the baby's forehead, already feeling as the child settled herself deep within her soul. Though she was too young to understand his words, a part of her could pick up abstract things – hope and love and pride – and the memory would remain with her even without her consciously being able to recall its exact shape.

    He breathed in deep, and then exhaled, allowing the moment to pass. Then he was nothing more than a fond grandparent holding a grandchild with love and adoration already thick and consuming within him.

    “You have made me proud many times over in your life,” he said to Arwen as he passed her daughter back – Aranes already blinking back sleep, drowsy and content after the subtle exchange of power. “Now you have done so once again. I speak for more than just myself when I say that you are dearly loved, you and all of yours.”

    Arwen could only nod at his words, her eyes once again full with feeling as she looked to the west. No more words were needed as he sat down next to her, content with the silence that fell between them. Arwen rocked her daughter, once again humming her cradle-song as Aranes succumbed to sleep.

    Together they sat in silence, each looking to the West, and Celeborn let himself remember for those who waited to hear.






    I just have a few notes on translation:

    Ennor: Middle-earth, Sindarin
    Elwë: Thingol's original name
    Artanis: Noble woman, Quenya, Galadriel's father-name
    Arwen: Noble maiden, Sindarin
    Aranes: Noble woman, Sindarin

    I assume that Arwen was named after Galadriel's original name, but it was never expressly said in canon, so I may be wrong! :p As always, my playing around with names comes courtesy of [link=http://www.realelvish.net/]the most amazing website ever[/link], right there. You guys need to check it out, even if it is just to give yourself an Elvish name. ;)

    ~MJ @};-
     
  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    What a splentabulous use of the prompt. =D=

    How I loved the details on such wonderful yet everyday pleasures as a gorgeous sunset and blooming flowers.

    I love these kinds of moments, they are exquisitely touching.
    Celeborn's and Arwen's emotions and reflections - beautifully portrayed. :) I can feel the wistfulness mixed with the love and pride and joy. [face_dancing]

    Definitely this terrific ficlet provided a just-right counterbalance to the heavy stuff in the prior ones. ;)

    [:D] [:D]
     
  8. Primetime_Jedi

    Primetime_Jedi Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 21, 2000
    Hey, just poking my head in here. IMHO, The Silmarillion is the most beautiful piece of fiction ever written. I'm writing my own fantasy/sci-fi novel and The Silmarillion is a major inspiration.
     
  9. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Beautiful and sweet moments. Arwen and Aragon should be proud.
     
  10. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
  11. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: Thank-you so very much for your kind words. I love how you notice even the little details in these ficlets. [:D] And I could not resist giving Celeborn and Arwen this moment - it was duly deserved after all of the heartache from the First Age to the Fourth, that's for sure. 8-} As always, I thank you for your enthusiasm and support, they always mean the world to me! [:D]

    Primetime_Jedi: I agree with that one hundred percent. [face_love] Thanks for stopping in! It is always great to see another Silmarillion fan. :cool:

    earlybird-obi-wan: That they definitely should. Thank-you so much for your kind words. [face_love][:D]






    Author's Notes: So, after introducing Calelassel in my Diary, I knew that I had to write more for her. As the events in this ficlet are of the First Age, my Diary would not be able to cover it, so here we are with backstory, courtesy of another one of the 50 sentence prompts. :) But first, some notes!

    On Thranduil: One of my favourite moves by Peter Jackson in his Hobbit films was the addition of Thranduil's scars from dragon-fire. I thought that was incredibly creative, and yet, it created even more questions than answers. The 'great serpent wars of the north'? I assume that Thranduil meant the War of Wrath, even if Jackson wasn't able to say so outright because of copyright laws. I do not know how Thranduil was able to change his appearance like that, but I assume it is the same way Maiar are able to control their forms - theoretically, by altering the Song of their fëa. But, more on that later! I am also only assuming that Elrond was the healer who worked on his face, just because it fits, and there was a slew of art released on tumblr following the DOS that influenced my head-canon, and now I cannot shake it. :p

    The War of Wrath: This was the final war in the First Age, where the army of the Valar underneath Eönwë's command came from the West to defeat Melkor/Morgoth once and for all. You think that anything they had to face in LoTR and the Hobbit was bad? Think again. [face_plain] . . . Melkor's army consisted of the Easterlings (evil Men), tens of thousands of winged and unwinged dragons, thousands of Balrogs, millions of Orcs and Wargs and Were-wolves and whatever other evil Maiar were underneath Melkor's command in their various forms - and then, you had to contend with Melkor and Sauron themselves. Eönwë's army consisted of the remaining Sindar and Noldor upon Middle-earth, whatever Dwarves that could be convinced to fight, and the noble Men of the First Three Houses. From Valinor were the Vanyar elves, and an uncountable number of Maiar, along with the Great Eagles of Manwë. The war took 45 years, but in the end, Melkor himself was taken captive and cast beyond the Doors of Night. His army was completely destroyed, minus a few stragglers (the Balrog of Moria, Smaug, and Sauron himself). The land itself was reshaped from the horror of the war - Beleriand fell into the sea, and a new coastline was formed in its stead. There were countless casualties on the winning side, and the Elves never recovered their numbers in Middle-earth after that war. :(

    Ancalagon the Black: A dragon so massive and fearsome that he made Smaug seem like a gecko. [face_worried] He is only described as gigantic, but he was so large that when he was finally killed, he fell from the sky and 'broke the three mountains of Thangorodrim'. Think about that for a moment - those mountains were written to be five miles across, and thirty-five thousand feet high. [face_plain] Funnily enough, it was Eärendil in his enchanted ship and the Eagles who felled him, though how that worked, I do not know. 8-}

    Black Arrows: These arrows could pierce the diamond like skin of dragon scales - one of these arrows are what Bard the Bowman used to slay Smaug, so I assume that this is where they first found their use. [face_thinking] With the Maiar on hand, it makes sense that it was a craft taught to them by the Maiar of Aulë, but that is my own addition to canon.

    Olórin: Gandalf. [face_love] As a Maia of Manwë, I assume he fought in the war. And it would certainly give him a good reason to be wary of dragons and their might. It's a wariness that Thranduil understandably shares when you think about it with all of this in mind.

    Fëa and Hröa: Soul and body, respectively.

    Elvish Ages: An Elf child had full speech and mastery of their minds by a year of age, but they grew slowly in body. A child seemingly 'seven' years of age may be twenty in actuality. Technical adulthood was reached with fifty years - think the human equivalent of turning eighteen, but true adulthood was considered to be at a hundred years - the equivalent of twenty-one. The Elves of Aman matured faster in the time of the Two Trees (yikes, Fëanor was married and a father before he was fifty. BUT, he is Fëanor, and he does what he wants. :p), and that time for growth slowed in Middle-earth. So, Calelassel is very, very young here - especially when compared to Thranduil, who was born before the dawn of the Sun and Moon in my canon. As an Elf, the poor guy never thought he'd run into this particular problem. :oops: But, more about that below. ;)

    Now, for all of the doom and gloom notes, this is actually one of the more mushier things I have written - dealing with the war's aftermath rather than the battle itself. That said, I hope you enjoy my expanding on Tolkien's world with this offering. [face_love]







    the eye of the beholder”

    CLVIII. Lovely

    At first, Thranduil was only aware that he breathed. And yet, he welcomed the realization not.

    The left side of his face burned with an unholy fervor, throbbing with an agony greater than that which had initially birthed the wound. Then his body had mercifully fallen unconscious after mere moments, overwhelmed from the sensations wracking his body; now he endured, biting his teeth and bearing through the red, throbbing pain that existed in place of flesh and bone. Each breath moved the bandages covering his face, scraping them across his skin with a near unbearable agony. Though they were intended to heal and bind his ruined flesh together, their soft touch was instead as embers sparking against his skin. After enduring wounds uncounted in battles throughout his centuries, nothing could compare to the horror that was dragon fire and its scourge. Nothing.

    Though the healers of Ennor had grown skilled at treating burn victims throughout the long years of the war – which, even with their victory, was tentatively being dubbed the War of Wrath by the weary soldiers who survived – his face presented them with a conundrum. There was so much sensitive skin and tissue that stood ruined, and not one of his senses had gone unaffected from the flames. His sight, his hearing, his sense of smell and taste; each laid damaged. Dragon-fire was no mere fire, burning with a vigor to match the inferno at the heart of the earth, so unlike any natural flame that they could call into being with their arts. No matter what the healers did, something would have to be sacrificed, and that, Oropher was simply not willing to do.

    Even with one ear, Thranduil could hear as his father hissed in low tones at the healers, berating them for their incompetence. He could feel as bandages were moved and replaced, as songs were sung and even the most senior amongst their arts tried to coax his body to heal with the light of their own fëar. None could quite grasp the success they strove for, and Oropher's temper grew all the worse with each passing failure, prickling against his skin to match the throbbing from his wounds.

    Time passed, though he knew not how long, and then Gil-galad himself offered up a solution - suggesting that his former ward try his hand at healing him. Already the half-elf was being groomed as the High-king's successor, and for his few years, Elrond's deeds during the war as both a healer and a warrior had earned him a growing respect from those on all sides of the field.

    Even so, Oropher was not impressed. “I will not place my son's health in the hands of an untrained child,” his words were scathing in reply to the Noldor King's suggestion, even with Elrond standing patient and serene by Gil-galad's side.

    “He is not untrained, and he is not a child,” Gil-galad calmly answered, long used to his sire's temper. If anything, Gil-galad's infinite patience and unwillingness to rise to any of the Sindar prince's barbs only annoyed Oropher further.

    “He has not even seen a century of years,” Oropher's voice was scornful in reply. “Perhaps we have differing views over what constitutes as maturity.” His words were a barely concealed barb, and Thranduil could imagine the way Gil-galad – a young king himself – tensed at them.

    But the Noldo did not allow Oropher's words to rile him. “And yet, in his few years, Elrond's talents have developed past what healers of centuries are able to claim. His control over his abilities has only blossomed since making his Choice. He is the best chance your son has if you wish to completely reverse the damage done.”

    The Choice, Thranduil thought. It had become common gossip amongst all the decision the Peredhil made – one brother throwing his ilk with Men while the other chose the immortality of the Elves. Thranduil tensed, not wanting his face to be the project Gil-galad set his ward on to distract him from the grief of his sundering from his twin.

    Oropher was silent for a moment, clearly torn. Thranduil could feel an uncomfortable, itching sensation run up and down his skin, one that always meant that his father's eyes were upon him. He did not say yes or no in reply, but Thranduil could feel one presence leave and another approach before cool hands ghosted over the bandages to examine the ruin of his face. Instinctively he tensed, expecting pain even from a well meaning hand. Yet, he felt as a blue touch cradled him, soothing the pain from his burns being exposed to the air and reversing the agony that seeped into his bones with even the smallest of motions. For a moment, he could breathe without pain, which was more than he had been able to do in days.

    “I can ensure that he will be able to see once more. I can save his vision without sacrificing his other senses,” Elrond said after a moment. His words were muttered, absorbed as he was in his observations over taking the time to speak to those with him.

    “Yes, but what of the rest . . .” Thranduil could imagine Oropher waving a vague hand.

    “The damage is too extensive,” Elrond answered frankly. “The scars will always remain, no matter what I do. But I can make sure that he keeps the whole of his senses, and ensure that the scars do not pain him in the years to come.”

    “Then you are useless to me,” Oropher responded scathingly. “His face . . . it is not a face, it is a mess of tissue and bone, and I will not force him to spent the rest of eternity with such a visage.”

    “But he will live, and he will live comfortably,” for the first, temper sparked in the youth before them. “You may find a healer better versed in burns than I, and save his countenance. But you run out of time to save the eye and his sight – and I can do that here and now.”

    “Glamours and enchantments can be provided later,” Gil-galad said, his voice pitched low and persuasively. “Let that be your son's decision, though.”

    At that moment, he did not care if he bore the face of a dwarf in the end, just as long as the burning sensation stopped . . . Later, he knew that he would not feel so, but in that moment nothing mattered but relief from the pain.

    And relief you shall find, a gentle voice sounded into his thoughts. Oropher was still going on, but Elrond had tuned him out. Instead he reached out to touch his mind with a soft blue presence. Thranduil blinked, taken aback by the weight of spirit circling his own, unsure of how the soul before him was not completely elven.

    He felt a flicker of amusement from the other man, and then the blue spirit pushed, and the comforting blackness of oblivion rose to embrace him.

    It took many days of such sessions with the Peredhel, but he was eventually able to close his wounds and convince his scared flesh to scab over in blessed numbness. His hearing was restored in both ears, and the scared flesh over his left ear even healed completely in the process. His sight, his sense of smell and taste, all returned. He was as functional as he was before the war, so much so that even Oropher had nothing to say for the youth's progress. Yet, Thranduil noted, he did not particularly sing his praises, either.

    I can feel his gratitude, Elrond's presence was still at the forefront of his mind. It is enough.

    Not nearly, and yet, I thank you . . . I am in your debt. Proud as he was to admit it, indebted he was, and he would see that debt paid.

    Some are made to heal, and so we heal, Elrond responded simply, brushing aside his thoughts as if they were the deconstructed reasonings of a child. It is an instinct within us all to protect, which you have learned more so than most.

    Thranduil should not have been surprised that the healer was able to see the circumstances leading to his near fatal encounter with the dragon. Even still, the knowledge sat awkwardly within him. He had not allowed himself to think much about the end of the battle himself, as if by doing so, he could keep it from his mind completely.

    At the beginning of the war, the Maiar of Aulë who had accompanied Eönwë from Valinor had shown crafted black arrows that could pierce the diamond like scale of dragon skin. The best of their archers – primarily Sindarin - had been giving the arrows, and stationed on the cliffs – where they could fire on the great wyrms in the water attacking Círdan's ships, and into the melee on the shore, where Morgoth sent his beasts of fire and air. Overhead, leading their efforts against the dragons had been the Blessed Mariner himself, flying alongside the Great Eagles in the sky. He remembered Eärendil as a child, sailing his small skiff in the surf and trying to coax Elwing to the water. Now, to see him in his enchanted ship, bathed in holy light as he battled the mighty Black Dragon himself . . . it was awe inspiring to watch, and it only bolstered the efforts of those fighting below as Ancalagon was pushed further and further back towards Thangorodrim.

    Of course, the archers became an obvious target for Morgoth's horde with their black arrows finding their targets over and over again. Thranduil and his unit of Sindarin swordsmen had been charged with both protecting the archers from Orc blades and retrieving what arrows they could from the fighting below. Such a thing was easier said than done with the Orcs trying to beat them to the arrows, and the poisonous blood of the felled wyrms filling the air with an unholy miasma, toxic and burning to the breath.

    While most of the winged beasts kept to the air, there were numerous snake-like monsters that slithered on the ground, with terrible claws and small wings that helped them vault over heads and find their prey with unrelenting accuracy. Fire, fumes, poison; all were equipped with one evil or another, and they took their pound of flesh from the Sindarin archers, no matter the measures they took to offer their brethren protection.

    If he was honest with himself, which hindsight forced him to be, one archer in particular caught his eye more often than not. Calelassel Laeorniel was young; very young. She had been born on the Isle of Balar, shortly after the Third Kinslaying, while her brother Laegalad was born some decades ago in Sirion. Laeorn, one of Oropher's lords, was her father and the Lady Gledhril of Gondolin was her mother. While the couple had fallen midway through the war from a scourge of dragon-fire on the coastline, their children had lived. For his scant century of years, Laegalad already held a respected place on Oropher's council, and during the war he had led a unit of swordsmen just to the south of Thranduil's. Yet, for all of his efforts, Laegalad had been able to do but little in keeping his sister from joining active combat – as perhaps their father would have. For the fact remained that their numbers were few when compared to the black might they faced, and for being not even a half a century in age, Calelassel's aim was already unerring accurate. She was a true child of war, having known her girlhood during the earliest days of their final campaign against Morgoth, and the fire in her belly to end the Dark Vala's evil ways was as fierce as those who had spent centuries underneath his domination.

    Thranduil could admit to being a little taken with the woman. When knowing her but little, he had sided with her when she sued for joining the archers on the front line – where many others were understandably uneasy for her youth and relative inexperience where they had already lost so many of their kind. On the front lines he had deepened his acquaintance with her until he would call her both a confidant and friend. He was, however, wise enough to keep his interest there and only there. While elvish ages worked in odd ways – and someday, over a thousand years between a couple would mean next to nothing – it was, however, unseemly to develop an attraction to one who had not yet passed a hundred years when he himself had seen many hundreds of years. He was an elf; he was patient, and he could wait. He had, after all, waited this long to begin with.

    Even so, he found himself drawn to her around the evening fires. Ever was she the one who found him in those rare, quite moments between skirmishes, and she rode by his side whenever they marched to the next field of battle. For all of her unmovable composure and the serene face she tried to project to appear beyond her years, her humor was wry and cutting when stirred, and her mind was as sharp as her aim. He enjoyed speaking with her, and as the years passed and the battles grew all the more frenzied as they coaxed Morgoth to desperation at the doors of Angband itself, his fascination with her grew.

    For all of their years, his kind could wait for centuries to find a suitable mate, finding little interest in the opposite sex until their souls met their match and they were bound in kind. He had a few dalliances to his name while looking for that match and thinking to find love with youth's naivety, but none ever stuck with him as she had with simply a glance. Once, he had even fancied himself in love with Lúthien herself - really, what man in Doriath hadn't? - and yet, as with most, a healthy fear of her father had squashed that attraction rather quickly. And yet, even that fascination proved to be trifle in the face of the rightness of spirit he knew now; his fëa drawn to hers and aligning with its match as the One had intended.

    Even so, he remained silent on his feelings. Calelassel only reached the year of her majority midway through the events of the war, and even if he wished to, he had not been at liberty to speak to her of such things. By the letter of the law, he was then free to court her, but wisdom still bid that he wait until she further grew into herself. He had contented himself with staying as close to her as he could without implying that he wanted anything more, and it was that closeness that had him at her side when Morgoth's last, desperate wave had fallen upon them on the final day of battle.

    Above them all, Ancalagon thrashed in the sky, and the hundreds of lesser dragons had rallied for the plight of their lord, falling left and right as their kind was nearly extinguished then and there. With a mad insanity for their approaching extinction, they had launched such a wave at the archers - against which they had grimly defended themselves. And yet, it had only taken one fledgling wyrm to break through, and in a moment of vulnerability . . .

    He had only seen the whites of her eyes as she realized her error in letting the winged beast too close, for her weapons were long ranged, and she was nearly defenseless in close quarters against a dragon's might. The red beast had seemingly smiled with its scaled mouth, showing crooked fangs and a vaporous yellow breath that sparked, and -

    He had not thought, he had simply acted, taking one of the black tipped arrows from the quiver of the archer closest to him, and charging . . . He had found the beast's heart, but the blow had cost him his face as dragon fire bathed him in an unholy embrace. He would have stayed there, crippled underneath the dying wyrm's onslaught had not a Maia named Olórin – one of Eönwë's lieutenants, grey and silver as he directed them against the dragon horde – pulled him away from the fountain of flames, and further back to safety. He dimly remembered Calelassel trying to aid the Maia before he shrugged her away, moving better on his own with the melee still churning around them. That final glimpse of her face - creased in horror and fear - was the last Thranduil had seen of her, and weeks had since passed.

    Weeks . . . and his wounds were nearly as healed as they would ever be. While working on his healing, Elrond had discovered a way for him to change a note in the song of his fëa to alter the appearance of his hröa – much as the Maiar did when they chose which body of flesh they wished to present to those of blood and bone. It would take years – maybe even centuries – for the song to permanently alter without his conscious effort, and for now he had to concentrate a good deal of his energy into presenting the illusion of a whole face, unbloodied and unmarred. It was a wearying battle, and he taxed himself with his efforts – ignoring Elrond's counsel to approach the illusion in short intervals, allowing his body to adjust until it could handle such a channeling of his power without his consciously having to do so.

    And yet, with a face half dead and half alive, his determination to grasp this new talent was fierce indeed. He exhausted himself with his efforts, and he left the sick rooms but little in the days following. He was too tired to even protest the rest, lingering pain and frustration all mingling together to pull him down even more so than the weariness engulfing him. True sleep was difficult for him, for he could not hold onto the enchantments governing his appearance while he slept, and he did not like to present his scared visage to anyone – not even Elrond with his understanding eyes, and especially not to his father, who looked at him as if everything about him altered along with his appearance.

    He turned away visitors as a whole, not wanting to see anyone until he had a grasp over his illusions. One day, Elrond was brave enough – or perhaps cross enough with his stubbornness – to mention Calelassel's constant visiting, but Thranduil coldly brushed him aside, his heart hammering in his chest at the idea of her, of all people, seeing him like this. No, he thought, it was best to stay away until he had a grasp on this.

    Even for his avoiding anyone and everyone, she still managed to find her way to him. After nearly a month of staying in the healer's chambers, she sought him out, slipping past the attendants with shadow cloaking her, her soft step and determination allowing her to pass unseen in the night.

    He was not sleeping, not truly, but he was trying to rest when he was aware of a weight joining his on the bed. A slight form sat on his right, leaning over so that she could better peer at his face. His face, which at that moment presented the illusion of health and perfection.

    “You are healed,” Calelassel's voice was filled with surprise. It echoed in the room, drawing him from his doze with a start as his senses sharpened and his heartbeat immediately picked up pace – as if he were about to engage a foe rather than an unarmed woman with concern in her eyes. “You are healed,” she whispered, “and yet . . . you feel pain. I do not understand.”

    For a moment he merely blinked at her, staring. “This,” he said slowly, his voice dry to his use, “is simply proof that my father can vex others to where it only inspires them to do more than they first thought themselves capable of.”

    She looked at him oddly, not understanding what he said, and for a moment he did not want to explain. And yet, perhaps . . . the quicker he was able to explain, the quicker he could then ask her to leave. “The damage is healed near as well as it ever will be. Scars remain, but I am . . . working to conceal them.”

    A moment passed. The silence stretched. “You have been avoiding me,” she said in a soft voice. She waited for him to speak, to explain, but he would not.

    “I have avoided all,” he gave what could pass as a shrug. “I did not differentiate you from any other.”

    She blinked at him, as if all and she were two separate things entirely. She opened her mouth, and then closed it again. Where he normally gave off a cool air of indifference that kept others at arm's length from him, she had never adhered to such things as personal boundaries before. It was as if it were the most natural thing to stand so close to his side, to touch his hand or shoulder when she talked as if they were a pair already bonded. Normally, such closeness in another would only discomfort him. With her, he had taken each moment as the stolen gratifications they were. Now, he wished that she was not so close as she sat on his bedside and leaned over him. Her hair was loose and unbraided, slipping over her shoulders in a fall of harvest gold. He could see the green-blue of her eyes, even in the dark. She rested her left hand on his chest to support her position, and the weight of her palm felt like a brand to match the searing sensation that still ghosted across his face when he called it to mind. He inhaled, and found that his breath was thin.

    She saw his eyes narrow, and guessed the shape of his thoughts. “It is due to you that I have had to steal in like a thief in the night.”

    He did not answer her, not right away. Instead, he turned his head into the pillow, trying to hide the injured side of his face from her without being obvious in his motions. He closed his eyes, hoping that he projected indifference.

    He heard her inhale. Her fingers pressed into his flesh, unconsciously clenching with her next request. “May I see?” she asked, her voice simple and level. Only the tight press of her fingertips betrayed how much the question meant to her. “The stories paint such pictures, and I need to see . . . I need to know.”

    The dark hid his flinch. He turned further into the pillow.

    “They said that the healer was more worried about your vision than your scars . . . can you see now? Was he successful in saving that?” worry pinched her voice. Through where he was ever growingly aware of the shape of her soul, he could feel her anxiety push to the forefront of her mind.

    Still, he was silent. He focused everything he had on presenting a whole face, even in the shadows. If she saw . . .

    “Do you not trust me?” she whispered, feeling the strain of him exerting his power. There was a question in her words where she intended them strong. He could feel a tendril of her fear, of her apprehension, and he steeled himself in reply to her. He would save her the sight of him, he was determined. It was no longer a prince she had snared, but rather, something twisted and even Orc like in countenance . . . no, he would spare her the sight of that.

    He tried to keep his thoughts cold, but they snapped and flared within him. His tenuous control over his hröa flickered, and he remembered belatedly Elrond's warnings about keeping the illusion for too long, too soon. He had not let his true face through all day, and now it was well into the night, and he was tired. Tired, and wounded at the heart.

    “I want you to leave,” he infused his voice with a wave of coldness. He knew his own look; he knew how his eyes could cut as ice, and his voice frost to match. He felt nearly fey in that moment, nearly desperate for her to leave before his control faltered, and she saw . . .

    “No,” Calelassel said, holding his gaze as if he instead looked at her with the eyes of a rabbit. “You do not want me to leave. You fear me, but you wish for me to stay, and you hope for me to accept you. Yet, you are too much of a coward to allow me that chance.”

    “I am merely weary,” he returned, his voice sharp, “and you are disturbing my rest.”

    “Then what else is it? Do you blame me?” she ignored him. Her eyes were hard as they studied his face. This close he could see the green flecked therein. “Do you wish that your actions that day were different? You may have saved your face, your eternal elvish beauty, and done away with whatever aggravating emotions you may have started to feel for me. It would have been so much easier . . .”

    Her words automatically caused a wave of revulsion to rise up in him, sick and twisting at the thought of her coming to harm. Due to his pain and exhaustion, he was less than the serene eternity that so many of his kind forced themselves to project to the world at large. His fëa had already chosen her – caring little of dates and whether or not she was ready - and the idea of her suffering even a tenth of what he now did . . . the idea of her falling before he could claim what was already his . . . anger rose in him for an opponent that was already dead, and he had to fight not to bear his teeth like an animal. “No,” he all but growled. He forced his voice to stay level. “I do not wish for that at all.”

    “Then why are you reacting this way?” she was merciless, moving her hand to push at his shoulder in her frustration. The green in her eyes was growing, and a part of him whispered that he was not the only one wearing his fey blood at the forefront. Souls recognized each other in pairs, and she was young, so young to be dealing with such an onslaught of feeling on top of everything else.

    He forced himself to breathe, to calm. He was a prince of the Sindar, not a mindless faerie, selfish and possessive. He had centuries to his name, and he would control his emotions where she yet could not.

    “It is not beautiful,” he finally said, his words open and raw. He liked but little to admit a shortcoming of his – a shortcoming of his people, really. “I . . . I am no longer beautiful. I have half a face to give to you, and the other half is . . . it is grotesque, and I wish not to suffer your eyes with such a sight.” You deserve more that this, went unspoken. He could not force the words to leave his mouth. He was not yet that selfless.

    Her eyes softened, and yet, the green within only grew. “You think so little of me,” she said, and her voice was sad. “You think so little of yourself if you think that all you have to offer is a face, as lovely as it may be.”

    “I have always been vain,” he said, seeing little point in denying it. “I appreciate beautiful things.” And she was beautiful, something elemental and enchanting, leaning over him to peer into his eyes, as if she could draw out the secrets within. Her brow was furrowed, her mouth pursed in her frustration. He fought back the urge he had to sooth away the line between his eyes with his fingertips. He wanted to trace the shape her lips made.

    He breathed in deep, and exhaled slowly.

    “And yet . . . this was done by me . . . for me . . . “ at that her voice was little more than a whisper. “If I had been only the slightest bit faster . . . my aim the slightest bit truer, then you would be whole, and not shying away from me as you do now.”

    He felt a pang at her words, understanding then that she blamed herself. “I would do it over again,” he said, surprised by how easily they rolled from his mouth, not realizing that truth until it was spoken. “It was a small price to pay.” He swallowed against the weight of his words, feeling them as they fell into the air between them.

    Calelassel looked at him very closely. “Then, why do you hide yourself from me?”

    He could not answer her, not without acknowledging how the idea of her looking on him in scorn did not only terrify him, it crippled him. He would rather face dragon-fire once more than receive such a wound from her. And, even worse, if she looked on him in pity . . .

    “Please, do not doubt my heart,” she whispered after a moment. Her words were plain and entreating, and with a sort of resignation, he forced himself to a state of numb apathy as he understood that there would be no detouring her – not unless he wanted to ruin what he had spent the last several years building. And he was tired . . . he was so very tired. Too tired to resist her.

    It was easy to let the illusion fall away, a relief even. More so than the effort of healing, he was incredibly exhausted from the effort of controlling such a concentrated power for so long a time, and now he felt the strain snap and then level out, leaving only an ache behind from overuse. He concentrated on that ache rather than meeting her eyes, sure that he would look up and see . . .

    . . . sorrow . . . sorrow and surprise . . . both were to be expected. At first she only looked at him, her eyes moving rapidly as if she could take in everything at once. She blinked, and her eyes were wet, shining in the dark. He watched as she bit her lip, hurt filling her expression – on his behalf, it took him a moment to realize as he cautiously studied her expression.

    “Can you see?” was the first thing she asked; the most important thing to her. His left eye was nothing more than a glazed white orb, dead and corpse-like to view.

    “Yes,” he answered. His voice was dry. “Due to the Peredhel's efforts, I can see.”

    She nodded, and he felt a wave of relief pour from her. “Does it pain you?”

    “When I think about it,” he rolled his shoulders. “For the most part, it is now dead flesh you see. The pain I feel is more that of memory, but that too will fade in time.” He did not tell her about the agony he first endured from the flames ripping through his flesh. She could infer well enough, just from looking at the marks left behind.

    “You have your sight and your life . . . and you no longer feel pain,” she exhaled shakily. “That is all that matters.”

    He blinked at her words, not understanding. He could not wrap his mind around them, he could not even agree with them. And yet, his thoughts came to a sudden halt when she did something unexpected.

    She reached out a hesitant hand, watching his eyes – the one eye that could still convey thought and feeling, at least – and gently, very gently, she touched the mangled mess of scar tissue that made up the left side of his face. She exerted no pressure, she simply rested the tips of her fingers on his skin, as if hesitant for causing him pain. She touched the knot of flesh and bone high on his cheek, and moved her first two fingers down towards the hollow, tracing where the flesh had completely burned away to leave nothing but ligaments and tendons beneath. There were gaping hollows, leaving little skin between his mouth and the outside of his face. The little skin there was red and ugly to look at, but the least of his pains. Her touch came to the puckered and ruined flesh beneath and around his eye. His orbital bone had at first been crushed, melted and fused to the rest of his skull. Now the rebuilt bone felt tender underneath even the barest of caresses.

    He held his breath, and wondered how she was able to touch what he could not even bring himself to look at.

    He had at first bore little of his nose left, and Elrond had worked at great effort to coax that to grow back. His struggles had paid off, though. Most of the cartilage had been rebuilt, and over the left slope of his nose, there were simply burns left – dry and stretching on the thin skin, but nothing more than that. She followed the swirling line of scars there, resting her finger in the crease that ran from his nose to his mouth.

    “How . . .” he could not finish his words. His voice was overwhelmed, a dry, hoarse sound.

    She could not quite smile in reply, but she tried. “It is you,” she said simply. “It is still your face . . . and you bore this for me. You endured this for me. As such, each one of these marks are mine.” She inhaled deeply, the green all but swirling in her eyes – possessive and fey. “Your spirit still feels the same underneath. Your spirit feels the same, and that . . . that is the beauty that first called to me, that first snared me. I did not first understand when it was said that we find our matches and simply know. I did not understand, and now . . . I know that I am young . . . too young, perhaps, and yet . . . I can feel you, and I understand how the moon directs the tides for how I am drawn to you. I . . . I hate that that pull did this to you. I hate that that tug forced you to endure this. I have felt each one of your pains as my own, and now, to think that you would cut that cord for your face no longer being whole . . .” he could feel her anger and her determination sparkle against his spirit, as consuming as dragon-fire. Only, he turned into this heat. He welcomed it.

    “I could feel your pain . . . I could feel your frustration and your anger, and to think that you bore such for me . . .” her voice faltered. It turned to a whisper. “I could not abide that. I could not breathe with it.”

    So immured as he was in his own agony, he had not even thought about what she would be able to feel over the ghost of a bond now connecting them. He had been restless and angry for days, and to think that she thought that directed at her. He exhaled, and forced himself to calmness, to peace. He had his sight, and she had her life. There was nothing else that mattered. He forced himself to think on that and only that. Nothing else mattered, not even . . .

    “Do you not see?” she whispered, feeling the shape of his thoughts, even if she was not able to specifically tell them one from the other. “You are still beautiful to me.” And he could feel the truth of that from her – a wave of warmth and adoration, and something more, something baser – low and pulsing beneath the bright glow of her regard.

    He could feel a brush of hesitation from her. Hesitation, and then determination swelled, quick and consuming. When she leaned forward, it was not her fingers she touched to his scared face, but rather, her lips.

    He started, feeling all but ready to leap from his skin when her mouth simply rested on the high arch of his cheek. Her touch was soft, barely even there with its pressure. And then, hesitantly, as if unsure of precisely what she was doing, she moved her mouth over one scar and then on to the next, leaving soft, butterfly kisses over each ridge of ruined flesh. The contact was innocent and pure, and yet it set his blood aflame more so than any heated encounter he had had as a youth curious for the ways of the flesh. She cupped the good side of his face in her hand, as if to hold him still, but he would have been unable to move even if he wanted to. Something inside of him felt small and humbled, and his eyes burned in an alarming way, betraying just how much the gesture moved him. He could not quite get enough air to his lungs. He lifted his own hand to cradle the back of her head, finally giving into the desire he had to touch her hair. Her mouth was hot and warm, but her hair was thick and cool, and he felt intoxicated on the dual sensations as his body spoke them to him.

    She moved her mouth to kiss underneath his eye, and then over the slope of his nose, and when her mouth brushed the corner of his lips, he felt his heart twist in his chest.

    Thranduil could count on one hand the number of times she had been close enough to kiss over the last few decades – and that was only because he had to forcibly endeavor to keep that number so low. Until the last decade or two, it had been more than his own conscience keeping him away from her - she had simply been too young by the laws of his kind, and he had to force himself to be stronger than the temptation she presented. But now she was warm and close, and his ruined flesh knew the touch of her lips while his mouth did not. His fëa was very close to the surface of his skin, giving off a light of its own as it pulsed within him, responding to the tug and draw of her own soul. It was too much, it was overwhelming, and this time he did not fight the desire he had to turn his head and brush her lips with his own.

    She was very still, and for a moment he feared that he had done something wrong. And yet, she then relaxed against him, gingerly returning the kiss with one of her own. The kiss was gentle, relaxed and unhurried; a counterpoint to the furious tattoo of his pulse and the consuming need he could feel rising within him. Curiously she pressed closer to him, and he let himself follow her lead, letting her learn what pleased them both. Her first kiss, he made himself remember, the knowledge bringing with it a warmth of its own. As best he could, he adhered to her comfort until he could not help but turn the kiss deeper, swallowing her surprised gasp as it turned into a moan. He sank both hands into her hair, well aware that his kisses were turning hungry and sensual, but unable to help himself. It was a fire of a different sort that consumed him then, but this one was healing where he had known only such pain before.

    She had a hand on each side of his face now, and the feeling of her bow callused fingers against his ruined skin caused a tremor to go through him. Lightning raced from the tips of her fingers, from the warmth of her mouth, and he cherished the sensations, his soul all but singing with the contact. She leaned over him all the more so, shifting restlessly as she unconsciously molded her body to him. Upon feeling the delicious warmth of her curves press against him, he forced himself to pull back – needing to end this before he could not. Wouldn't that be quite the tale for gossip upon the morrow? he thought without amusement. A prince of over a millennia unable to keep from bonding to a girl not much older than fifty without first a proper courtship, or a real engagement, even, and -

    Her eyes were clouded with desire, hazy and green, the blue within nowhere to be seen. Her hair was mused and her lips were swollen and pink. He swallowed at the sight she presented, forgetting his train of thought for a moment as she took pity on him and carefully sat upright once more. Even still, her hand did not leave his face. He could not completely turn away from her touch as he committed that moment to his immortal memory, never wanting to forget it.

    “My brother intends to accompany your father over the mountains with Amdír's folk to seek out our kin of old,” Calelassel finally said when she had the voice to do so. “I know that you will stay in Lindon as Gil-galad builds it, and reign over our people who wish to remain by the sea. Someday, though . . . someday the forests will call you home, and I will no longer be a child unable to enter into a relationship with you on equal footing. I will make you no vow, not wanting you to think it only the words of youth speaking so . . . but I will say that when that day comes, you will find me waiting. I will wait, and someday, when you ask me for my hand I will accept.”

    Her words humbled him. Humbled, and awed him. He bowed his head before her as if she were the Starkindler herself, feeling undeserving of both her love and the gift of her promise. “The day you speak of may be many away,” even still, he could not help but warn her. “Centuries, even.”

    “I am an elf. I am patient; I can wait,” she said cheekily. Her eyes were glittering in the dark. “Now, can you?”

    “I have waited this long,” he said in reply, not able to wholly resist from touching her again. He traced the whole shape of her face, unburned and unmarred, letting his thumb rest on the full curve of her lower lip as he wished to earlier. She leaned into his touch. “I will wait as long as may need be.”

    A tension he did not realize to linger between them unraveled with his words – vowing, even where she said she would not. He did not trust himself to kiss her again, even though he dearly wished to. Instead, he concentrated on his exhaustion. He felt weary, but no longer was that weariness painful. He felt soothed, content even, as he laid back down. After a moment's thought, she followed him. She wrapped herself around him, pillowing her head against his chest and resting her hands in the warm fall of his hair. This close, he could feel both the rise and fall of her chest and the warmth of her breath against his skin. He concentrated on that, and only that, finding true healing as he closed his eyes and let himself drift off to sleep.




    ~MJ @};-
     
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  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    That was the absolute most touching, amazing thing ever! =D= Beautiful, humbling and awe-inspiring indeed. You really must must must surprise even yourself at times. :D :D [face_love]
     
  13. Cael-Fenton

    Cael-Fenton Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2006
    Sorry I missed the last update, was busy with exams [face_blush]

    "third of her name" was lovely in its tenderness. Really beautiful. I love the idea of Arwen's Vanya heritage from Indis through Galadriel living on in one of Eldarion's sisters, that the beauty and wisdom of the Elves would live on and manifest so physically in Aragorn's line, as it did at Dol Amroth. And how Aranes seemed to somehow recognise Celeborn right away, as though the part of her that was her great-grandmother's would always know him across the years and gulf that separated their kindred. Soul-bond indeed.



    I haven't seen Desolation of Smaug, so I'm not familiar with the scars you speak of. But that's a really interesting backstory for Thranduil. You portrayed his impulsiveness, vanity and adorable sullenness so well while giving him such a tenderness and depth of feeling. And your OC (I assume?) seems just the type for him! They go together so well. Your Elrond was, as usual, perfect. And I'm an Olorin fangirl through and through, so I liked his cameo here!
     
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  14. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: [face_laugh][face_love][:D] You really are too sweet for words, my friend! It's true, that last one is one of my favourite things I have written in a while, and I had such a smile on my face when I finished it! I am glad that you found it so enjoyable to read. :) [:D]

    Cael-Fenton: Pfft, please never feel pressured to read all of these! Read what you want and when you want - that is the beauty of a ficlet collection. :p And, that said, I am very glad that you enjoyed these last two. It means more than I can say to hear that. [:D] The line of Dol Amroth is exactly what I was thinking of with Aranes, it is true! And as for DOS . . . well, you are not missing much. It's a shame, because while I hated the writing and the execution of the movie, the actors were just brilliant. Richard Armitage brings a beautiful majesty and tragic weight to Thorin that his character in the book somewhat lacked, and Martin Freeman is Bilbo, there's just no other way to say it. [face_love] It's simply a shame that the movie bearing his name had so little of him in it! :oops: Lee Pace's Thranduil was just . . . I fangirled, I am not going to lie - even with the coldness and isolationist tendencies they exaggerated in his character. (For they were not completely off the mark. :p) This below was the scene with the scars, if you are interested, even if it has nothing from the book-canon within it. (And I do miss the 'starving in the forest' conversation that was originally there, even if the tone was sillier. Still, imagining these two pulling that off is just . . . yeah. :p [face_laugh])



    And yes! My Calelassel is an OC! I've had a lot of fun with her, and want to eventually explore a bit more of the Greenwood turning into Mirkwood in these ficlets. Thranduil's was the only elven realm without a Ring protecting it, and he saw what a Ring did to his Dwarvish neighbors, to boot. [face_worried] Couple that with Sauron coming back to life in his forests and his people constantly trying to push Sauron back with Gandalf's aid is something we see tantalizing glimpses of in the Tale of Years, but I want more - especially since not a word of that was conveyed in Jackson's films! So, I am just going to have to write it. :p :-B

    [:D]


    Now, that said! I have my latest ficlet - using the 50 Sentence prompts again while I finish up my reply for the NSWFF prompt thread. This one spiraled out of control . . . again (really, why do they all do that??), but I do not really mind, since this is probably one of my favourite things I have written in a long time. [face_love] It's another reembodied Maedhros in the Fourth Age story - though set somewhat before the one I wrote with him in Alqualondë, and it wraps up my whole Eärendil-and-sons/Peredhil-family-drama/Feanorians-trying-as-fathers line of ficlets that my muse has been indulging in lately . . . for now at least, for there is always room for more in that particular arc. ;)

    That said, I hope you enjoy and I thank you all for reading! :) [:D]






    "as little might be thought”

    CLIX. Distract


    The first year following his release from Námo's keeping, he managed to keep himself from seeing anyone and everyone.

    It suited him, this quiet living. Maedhros busied himself with little more than building the small dwelling he shared with Fingon, all the while learning how to do a hundred things his body had forgotten with death anew. He did not seek up or down the road, and none sought him out in return. It was better this way, Maedhros thought, for he as unwilling to entertain company as he was eager to be seen in kind.

    While he would have been content with the silence and the door still without anyone ever passing through, Fingon had visitors every now and again. Nolofinwë came to visit once, yet Maedhros 'conveniently' had work to occupy him out of doors while Fingon spent the day with his father. Anairë stopped by to visit her son with every other turn of the moon, bringing letters from others in the family along with the news and gossip from Tirion. Her sharp mind had been one of the unspoken forces behind Arafinwë's successfully reigning over the Noldor since the Darkening, and it was a role she continued to play now, even as she shared it with those who returned. She did her best to draw Fingon back into the cares of their people – and, more subtly, coax him to do the same.

    Unlike his brother, Arafinwë was more pointed with his visit. His uncle waited him out until he at last returned, standing surprised in the doorway to find the Noldor-king still sitting in the common room, pouring him a cup of tea as if he was an expected companion – which, due to his Sight, he was. Arafinwë had ignored his gaping mouth, and instead welcomed him to sit as if four ages of the world had not passed since last they met. There had been a warmth in Arafinwë's eyes, Maedhros hated to see . . . a missing. It was a missing that baffled him – for the last time he had seen his uncle, it had been with the carnage at Alqualondë stretched out between them. There had been denial and horror etched into the gentle lines of his face, and he . . .

    But Maedhros did not . . . could not . . . think of that now.

    How Arafinwë was able to look beyond his actions was something Maedhros could not understand. Afterward, Fingon had been unrelenting as he pointed out that he was his own worst enemy. If others could forgive him, if Námo himself could pardon his sins, then perhaps it was time for him to do so as well.

    Hearing such a thing said, no matter how many times, was one thing. It was quite another to believe those words in his bones, to live them . . .

    In the year since his return to life, Turgon had come to visit once - but that was Fingon's company to be had. Maedhros wished to seek out Fingon's brother as much as Turgon wanted to see him, and so, they avoided each other well enough.

    The frame of their cottage was halfway done, rustic and simple, and while he carefully toiled away at the interior, they already had a small garden growing on the east side of the house, where the rising sun would shine bright and welcoming upon the fledgling crops. The healthy soil encouraged the growth of both weeds and those plants they wanted, and Maedhros kept himself busy, letting the sun on his bare back and the earth beneath his hands sooth away the turbulent spin of his spirit. Later in the day, when Turgon gathered his horse from where he had been grazing and set out again, Maedhros came to the garden gate to watch him depart, but came no further.

    Turgon did not see him, yet Fingon did. Of course, he always did.

    After they could see Turgon no more due to a bend in the road, Fingon came in through the garden gate. Maedhros turned back to his weeding, pretending to be uninterested in Turgon's departure. It was a cloudless day, and the sunlight was bright and warm from the blue sky above. The gold in Fingon's braids glittered in the sun, fighting to match the amused glint in his gaze. Maedhros looked, and upon catching the knowing look in his eyes, he ducked his head again, pretending to be completely enraptured by the small green shoots coming up alongside the carrot tops.

    “You have perfected the art of going unseen when you do not wish to be found,” Fingon commented, kneeling down on the opposite side of the row to aid him. “Many are beginning to believe that you still walk as a spirit in Námo's Halls, and I have but concocted a fantasy of you in my mind.”

    “Nonsense,” Maedhros waved his hand. “Had you been building alone, the roof would still leak water, and as it does not . . .”

    Fingon raised a brow, but allowed him his deflection. “It is true, the craftsmanship around me does suggest a Fëanorian hand.”

    Maedhros snorted. “You may hand me tools, my friend, and then little more. Your strengths have always laid elsewhere.”

    “You are kind in wording my faults,” Fingon gave a teasing bow, always easy within his own skin. Even still, Maedhros could not quite smile with their banter. Even though they spoke in jest, there was a weight behind the words. Waiting . . .

    Only, he did not have to wait for long. Not this time.

    “So,” Fingon started carefully. His voice was hesitant in tone, his timbre shaped to sooth even as he struck his wound. Maedhros braced himself. “Turgon came from Lantasírandë before journeying here. He brought news of the settlement, if you were interested in hearing.”

    Ah.

    Maedhros frowned, suddenly understanding Fingon's reason for speaking carefully. He looked down, but there was nothing else he could do with the carrot tops. He moved on to the pepper plants, where a thin, vine like weed was trying to creep up the stalks. He started pulling at the weeds carefully, separating the cancerous growth from the young blooms with a careful hand. Fingon took his sudden interest in the health of the pepper plants in stride, scooting down the row to help him with his task.

    “Elrond's house has grown,” Fingon continued, speaking as if nothing was amiss between them. “There are few of our kind left in Endórë who need find the grey ships West, and many from the latter days have settled in the vale. Turgon speaks with nothing but pride when it comes to his great-grandson. He could scarce mention anything else for the majority of his visit.”

    “Turgon has been blessed in the reach of his line,” Maedhros said stiffly, moving the soil to cover over where he had taken a weed out by the root.

    Fingon toyed with a small spade that had been left standing in the soil, not actually doing anything helpful in favor of continuing to stare at him. Maedhros could feel the weight of his gaze, as poignant in this life as it had been in the last.

    “You were inquired after,” Fingon said. He pushed his fingers against a wound, testing the bruise for healing whilst mindful of the pain he would inflict by doing so. “It must have been often, and at great length for Turgon to tell me so, elsewise he would have happily kept that information to himself.”

    Maedhros was silent. He moved the soil back and forth, not truly conscious of his movements save for the feel of the black, moist earth in his hands.

    “You cannot avoid this forever,” Fingon said gently. “Eventually the Perelda will seek you out – and yet, I think it would be better if you were to go to him first. Lantasírandë is hidden, and those dwelling there will know of you in name only. There will be curiosity for your visit, but it will not be the weight of memories. Your visit would not be crushing, I think, but rather . . . healing.”

    Still Maedhros was silent. He did not meet his cousin's eyes. And yet, Fingon was unperturbed. Long was he used to fighting where he was concerned, and he would plant the seed of an idea now and watch it grow.

    Yet, Maedhros would not . . . he could not . . .

    “You never know,” Fingon remarked wryly, “You may even enjoy yourself if you go. For now, you commit yourself to an exile no different than the sentence you served in Mandos' Halls.”

    “Better for all is my staying here,” Maedhros finally said. His voice was little more than a whisper, given to the soil and the growing things rather than to Fingon's ears. “You were not there, you did not see . . .”

    “I did not see what, exactly?” Fingon questioned, his tone blunt and challenging. “I did not see that you raised two children - two children who had nowhere else to go? It is true, I did not see a love grow, where little would have first been thought. And yet, what seems impossible to your eyes is not so strange to me.”

    And yet, it should have been. It should have been reprehensible, even - a thing of horror. He had spent so long repenting of his actions at Alqualondë, to only repeat them at Doriath and then once again at Sirion. He could not think about it himself for the shame of it, and he did not know how Fingon could speak of it so easily. He did not understand how Fingon could still care . . .

    Why does he care? Maedhros could not help but wonder. Why does he stay here with me, playing at my keeper in Námo's place? Why does he look at me as if we are still young men living in Arda's spring?

    Though Fingon had little skill in the mental arts – not like Arafinwë's children and their talents with the uncanny, he could still feel the emotions that accompanied his thoughts, so close were they after so many centuries. Fingon sighed. He reached out to prune a dying leaf from the plant nearest to him while Maedhros let his hands rest at the roots.

    “Someday you will understand the answer to that question,” Fingon said softly, answering the unspoken. “And yet, on that day you will no longer feel the need to seek such an insight. It is an understanding that your former ward already holds, and you are unfair in your assuming otherwise.”

    Maedhros swallowed, silent for a long moment. “You were not there,” he whispered. “It was my actions at Sirion that left them without home and those to care for them. If I would have given them to Gil-galad's care earlier instead of dragging them around the wild, waiting for Eärendil to return -”

    “ - who is to say that it was not for the better?” Fingon returned. “The history of Endórë may have been different indeed if Elwing the White was the one to raise her sons - for while she has since learned peace, she was little more than a vessel for the Silmaril then. You have much to offer besides a legacy of blood and pain. You have wisdoms uncounted and strengths deep and immeasurable. The Pereldar, more so than any other, reaped the best of you – and the time they spent with you and Makalaurë shaped the course of history more so than you will let yourself see.”

    For a moment, Maedhros was not able to reply. How could he explain that the simple matter of Elros calling him father had been the last, deciding factor for them to finally give the children up? For he loved the sons of Eärendil, and loved them dearly. He loved them enough to let them go when it became apparent that the Silmaril of Lúthien would remain far from the shores of Middle-earth forever more. And yet, that love had not been enough to stop him in the end. He had only seen the Silmarils within Eönwë's camp. He had not been able to listen as Elrond pleaded for Maglor and him to choose them over the hallowed gems, to stay with them and forget their hopeless Oath. Put them first, was the simple task asked of him – something few in the twin's young lives had done up to that point . . . Yet, he had not been able to do so. He had failed them. He had failed them as Elwing had, as Eärendil had, as Fëanor had he and all of his brothers long before that. Elros was hardly more than a child and making an impossible decision about his fate, and he . . . he had left them to make the Pereldar's choice unguided. He had seen only the flames of his Oath, and let those flames consume him as he breathed his last breath and threw everything away – uncaring about those he left behind.

    Now . . . now Elros was centuries dead, long sleeping in the ever-slumber of Men. Elros was dead, and Elrond was there just beyond his craven reach. Did he wish to seek him out, and meet the man his child had become? He did, a small and distant part of him whispered – a part that was all new flesh and old loves, long scarred over and still struggling to heal . . . This was the part of him that Námo had seen in his spirit and foolishly thought to be worth more than the rotted whole of his being. It was this the Vala had counted worthy of forgiveness, and yet, he could not yet bring himself to see what the Lord of Death saw fair and bright about his soul.

    “I did not do right by them,” was all that Maedhros could force himself to say. It did not matter that he could not put his feelings into words – Fingon had followed the shape of his thoughts within his mind, and understood them in their entirety. “Not as I should have, at any rate.”

    “And yet, you can now,” Fingon said, his voice sharp with determination. Always, his wisdoms were simple. While he knew the world for its shades of grey, his insights nearly always veered towards the white as he looked for the best in anything and everything. “The only thing stopping such a healing is you, Maitimo.”

    Still Maedhros looked down at the plants before him. He wanted to speak, and yet, he was not quite sure what to say.

    But Fingon had said his piece, and now he was done - for the moment, at least. “We will have a yield of peppers by the summer's end,” he said amicably, looking up at the bright warmth of the sunlight above. “It has been a rather fruitful season for growth, would you not say?”

    Maedhros raised a brow, letting him know that he was as bad with his double meanings in this life as when he was the High-king in Exile, but Fingon ignored him, moving on to the tomatoes next. Maedhros knew that while the subject was closed for that moment, it was far from over.

    Now, he was able to think about nothing else. Oh, he tried to distract himself, but there was little use.

    He threw himself into his building, but he found that he remembered teaching Elros how to wheedle away shapes from wood with his knife. He remembered Elros' constructions becoming more and more elaborate, even as Elrond picked his mind for the formulas and the simple rules of mathematics that governed the building of most structures. They put both together until Elros was sketching out great ships on parchment - planning a building that would not be his for many years to come. There had been laughter aplenty with naming his fleet and imagining a realm of the sea - an imagining that would eventually be Elros' in reality. Thinking about Númenor, lost beneath the waves – with Elros' tomb visited only by Ulmo himself - he was reminded almost violently of that which he had lost on watching grow before time ran out completely.

    When he took a day, and then two, off from his building, Fingon said nothing as to his pause. Even so, Maedhros saw the knowing in his eyes, and that managed to rankle him more than anything else. When Fingon asked him if he wished to spar – giving him an outlet to unleash the coiled energy in his limbs – he accepted, ignoring his unspoken rule of touching not of steel since returning to life anew. Even that was filled with memories. He remembered holding swords in small hands for the first times, and watching as children once again took to the art of war beneath the watchful eye of his tutelage. He remembered Elros' strong and determined, taking to the fight in the style of the Atani with his sweeping blows and exacting footwork. Elros had taken naturally to the sword, while Elrond had to devote himself to its learning to keep up with his twin. Maglor was much the same with his skills, Maedhros remembered, and he had changed his tactics to help the child learn as Maglor had learned so long ago. In the end, Elrond had been quick and clever with a blade in his hand, more like a river as it picked through the land where Elros was as a tide. The sword was an art he knew well, and few were those in Middle-earth who could best him - even with one hand. His talent was one he was able to pass on tenfold.

    Now, with resurrecting that talent, he had been little company for Fingon - all but stalking away from the clearing in annoyance when the distraction proved to be for not. Fingon had not followed him, feeling the fraying strands of his temper as it sparked, and Maedhros had been glad for his insight as he was left alone.

    He tried riding after that, but that distraction only brought back memories of holding small bodies atop their ponies for the first time. He remembered speaking of the bond between rider and animal - teaching the twins how to first ride without saddle and bridle, showing them instead how they could commune with the soul of their mounts, and learn from the bond that came from such a connection. He had remembered, and his own bay stallion had pranced beneath him, picking up on his restless mood.

    Of course, his day on the trails was interrupted by the rain – proof that Námo was not quite through with punishing him, he thought darkly - and Maedhros rode home soaked and dripping, his hair slipping from his braids in wet tangles as thunder rumbled over the land above him.

    One Balrog . . . two Balrogs . . . three Balrogs are slain by Glorfindel! he remembered Elros counting out the peals of thunder above, and he hung the saddle back upon the rack with more force than was strictly necessary.

    It rained through the next day, and he tried turning to his work indoors. He sorted through the missives from Tirion that Fingon attended to for Arafinwë – but, in truth, passed on to him. It was an old skill of his to put his mind to the riddles of the court, one he learned for Finwë's rule and carried on to Middle-earth. After, he worked on translating old lore in the newer tongues, but he did not make it far before remembering Elrond's wide eyes as they peered over the scrolls he attended. The child had a mind made for letters and their shape, for tales and their weight, and he found a natural scholar in the boy – a talent that he had encouraged in part, and Maglor even more so than he. Long days were passed teaching the High Tongue and the even more ancient language spoken before Quenya developed its full form. Vanyarin was studied, and Telerin was consumed until they were hard pressed to keep up with the demands of more that were constantly being heaped upon them.

    He placed the quill down, frustrated, and when Fingon started plucking a tune on the harp that had once been Elros' favorite . . .

    Maedhros had had it.

    He could stay here no longer.

    He left before the dawn the next morning, determined to sate the curiosity in his bones. I shall come upon the valley, and no further, he tried to reason with himself. I just want to see . . .

    And then . . .

    Maybe a cup of tea, and then I shall leave, he decided next.

    He turned back on the path a moment later, annoyed with his own stupidity in thinking that he would be welcomed in any way. Of course, he made it only a mile in the direction of home before turning on the trail again. He had come this far, he reasoned, and . . .

    Maybe I can just walk though the valley and have a look around . . . I will keep my hood up, and hide my hair . . .

    He turned towards home, annoyed with himself.

    Ten paces later, he turned back again.

    You are being foolish, he told himself. Absolutely foolish.

    . . . somewhere, he was sure that Námo was laughing himself silly over this, Maedhros thought darkly. It was just the sort of thing the Vala would take delight in.

    You, he hissed at his own mind, are behaving as a child. Cease this. You were able to ride to Morgoth himself to greet him in a parley, and speaking to the Perelda will now defeat you? You have stared down horrors unimaginable, and survived perils untold. You have held the eye of a Vala, and he deemed you worthy to return to life anew, and now, you will squander such a gift on your own craven heart . . .

    . . . for that was the simple truth of the mater. He . . . he was afraid, terrified even, of the reception he would receive, knowing as he did the cool way he knew Elrond's eyes could cut when they wanted to. Such a look was Turgon's in shape . . . or maybe it was inherited from Thingol, he thought with a wince. The stories always did leave out Lúthien's temper, at that, and -

    . . . he was rambling, even to himself. A now familiar ache threatened to settle about his temples.

    He turned back twice more, convinced that his task was utter foolishness, before he set upon the road with determination in his heart. He would not turn back again, he decided. He had chosen his course, and he would stick too it.

    Maedhros spent that day traveling in silence, lost within his thoughts. During that first night on the road, he closed his eyes by the fire, and opened them to see that Fingon had caught up with him.

    “You followed me,” he said. There was no question in his words, only a statement. Really, he reflected, he should not have been surprised.

    “My following you is terms of your parole, technically,” his cousin teased. “Námo released you from his Halls only so long as I kept an eye on you. I am not one to disobey the order of a Vala.”

    At that, Maedhros turned over in his bedroll – firmly ignoring the other man. He could feel Fingon's eyes on him from over the dying light of the fire, but a moment later they fell away. Fingon set up his own bedroll and fell into sleep easier than he did – ever comfortable as he was with himself and his place in the world. Maedhros stayed awake while his cousin's soft snores filled the clearing, looking at the stars shining brightly down through the canopy of branches above.

    He did not sleep at all that night, but his horse was rested and ready to carry him the rest of the way into the mountains. The Pelóri mountains made strange shapes so close to the Calacirya, where the light spilled onto the rock in dancing and ethereal patterns. Sometimes, he could close his eyes and pretend that he was still in Endórë beyond, while at others times Valinor did not let him forget her majesty of presence . . . her tug of home upon his soul, even without the light of the Trees.

    Fingon rode a good dozen paces behind him on the road – letting him work through his demons on his own, but lingering just within reach - ever ready as he was to give him a hand to lift him from the depths of his own mind. Though he did not say so aloud, he was grateful for his presence in the way he was grateful for a shield upon his back during a battle. And yet, it was no battle he stepped towards now. It was a reunion, and what should have been a glad and joyous thing was now a weight upon his chest – a quickening to his heart that his blood rushed to keep time with.

    He breathed in deep, and let his breath out slow, trying to do away with the restlessness in his bones. The horse beneath him was fidgety and nickered in annoyance, having picked up on his mood and feeling it in kind. He made absent, shushing sounds underneath his breath, trying to calm the animal – and himself in turn.

    Behind him, Fingon started whistling an old walking song that Maglor had thought up on one of the long journeys to Formenos in the north, where each in their party had built on the ridiculous tune until the song could hold no more. The song was a memory of happy times, drawing Maedhros' mind into a pleasant state of numbness as he remembered his family before the Silmarils and Morgoth's toxic influence. He forced his thoughts to concentrate on that and nothing else as they made their way deeper into the mountains.

    They could just hear the sound of falling water in the distance when they came upon a figure cloaked in dark green on the path. The elf was on horseback, speaking in rapid Sindarin to someone further down the trail. From the distance, Maedhros could not hear what he said, but he could see the telling spill of inky hair . . . the familiar breadth of shoulders . . . the same serious brow and line of mouth that he had one time known as well as his own, and -

    “Elrond?” Maedhros called down the path, the greeting slipping from his mouth before he could think to pull it back in. His horse picked up his pace without his command, obeying the wish of his mind before he could give his actions conscious thought.

    The elf turned towards him as he approached, and Maedhros saw where he had been mistaken. While the man on the path bore much in common with his former ward, he could see where another's features had been merged to birth the face before him. The amusement in the silver-grey eyes was a nearly painful reminder of Elros, he thought next, when -

    “I am not my father,” the elf said, and . . . ah, Maedhros understood his error. The child he had raised was a father himself now. He had been for thousands of years, even, and -

    “Elladan?” he tried next, remembering the stories Fingon had passed on from Turgon's mouth.

    The second figure on the path rode up to them; an exact replica to the first elf in face. The first elf was just slightly broader of shoulder than his twin – built almost like a Man, Maedhros thought, in comparison to his more fey brother. The son who identified more with his mortal blood? Maedhros hazarded a guess. That would make the second Elrohir, who was watching him with a quiet solemnity that was all his father's look in shape.

    “Aye, that I am,” Elladan answered, confirming his guess. “Well done,” he gave, the barest of grins tugging on the corner of his mouth. “It normally takes others a good century to tell us apart, and you did so at first glance.”

    “I have had practice in the matter,” Maedhros answered, the words suggesting an ease that he did not feel.

    His youngest brothers had been twins, and alike as two separate bodies could be; they all but sharing one soul between them. Even his own brothers had difficulty in telling the Ambarussa apart – something that the twins had delighted in – but he had always known, even when they had tried to fool people otherwise. Poor Caranthir had been tasked with looking after the Ambarussa more often than not, and remained the closest with Fëanor's more fey sons into adulthood. Yet, even he stumbled over who was Amrod and who was Amras.

    . . . happier memories of his family were a rare thing since his Awakening, Maedhros thought then. It was odd, to think of his kin with a pang that was missing, rather than grief, but it was not unwelcome.

    “So the stories would say,” Elladan answered, calling him back to himself. Where his twin was quiet and watching, he looked at Maedhros with an unabashed curiosity – as if he was a character from a story come to life. And, in a way, he was. It just waited to be seen what sort of story he starred in . . . “We have heard much about you, Maedhros Fëanorian. Please – it would be our honor to lead you further into the valley, if that is where you are heading?”

    As it all to often was, he did not need to wonder if he was recognized – his red hair was a dead giveaway. At least he had both hands to his use now, he thought ruefully. He still bore his scars from Angband, criss-crossing his body in stark ridges of silvery white lines. He had not consciously asked Námo to keep those when the Vala crafted his body anew, but it had been a wish of his heart to remember. The Lord of Souls understood him better than he did himself, and made it so.

    Now, he took a deep breath and said, “Yes, I was heading into the valley. I would be glad of a guide.”

    “Excellent,” Elladan was easy with his smiles, Maedhros saw. “Please, follow us then. And your friend too?” he glanced to where Fingon lingered further back on the path – pretending to be interested in a species of blue bird that was singing above him rather than joining in on their greetings.

    Maedhros fought the urge to snort at his friend's antics. Only Fingon.

    “Yes, Fingon too,” he said loud enough for the other to hear, and Fingon reined his horse towards them at the summons.

    “Wonderful,” Elladan said. “This way if you please.”

    At his words, Elrohir started first down the path. Elladan followed his brother, slowing his mount so that he could ride at Maedhros' side. Maedhros glanced behind, and saw that while Fingon followed he made no move to catch up.

    “I am glad for your presence,” Elladan fell into conversation easily – as if they were the oldest of friends, commenting on the weather. “Adar has been as a caged bear in the valley since news of your rembodiment reached us from Turgon's mouth. Naneth has had to tell him to stay put more often than not, for she was certain that you would come to us, in your own time.”

    Elrohir glanced back, and darted a look at his twin – one that Elladan returned with a raised brow, annoyed with his brother's chastisement.

    “And yet,” Elladan said carefully, glancing at his brother as he did so, “That is a story for Adar to share, and not my place to say.”

    A moment passed, and then Elrohir asked, “How long will you be staying in the valley?”

    Maedhros paused. “I am not sure,” he answered. “I had scarce made my plans to journey here before I was on the road. I had not thought much past that.”

    “I see,” Elrohir commented, and then said no more.

    Maedhros blinked at the cold demeanor from the younger twin, but accepted it in stride. Elrohir's opinion was no doubt the same as many would hold, and he would take cool pleasantries over outright disdain. The younger twin was as wary as a sentry wolf stalking around the den while his pack slept. Maedhros could not begrudge him that.

    Elladan, however, was not as quick to let his brother go. “Forgive Elrohir,” he turned to Maedhros, his look narrowing in a way that was not Elrond – but rather, Artanis when she was moved to annoyance by others. Was such a trait passed on from her daughter? Maedhros wondered, amused. He was aware that he was staring, but he was unable to do anything else with the nearly surreal encounter – so many old and forgotten things now alive and remembered before him. “His wife and son are gone to Tirion until the solstice, visiting her kindred, and business prevented him from following along. He will be amiable again once she returns.”

    “It is not - ” Elrohir started to protest before thinking the better of it. His face softened, but only just. “Forgive me for my rudeness,” he said a moment later. “I did not mean to offer insult, and it shall not happen again.”

    “I took no offense,” Maedhros assured, curious as he watched the brother's interact. Slow to give affections, but humble too, he reflected. He could think of worse combinations. “I thank you, though.”

    They walked for some time, no sound between them but for the hoofbeats of the horses, and Fingon's whistling from further down the path. While not completely comfortable, the silence was not edged, and Maedhros let it stretch.

    “You picked a good time of year to visit,” Elrohir said next, breaking the silence between them. His words were slow to start, but they picked up as he spoke. “The waterfalls are at full rush by the end of the spring – with the winter melt finally making its way down the mountains, and all. They are beautiful to behold.”

    “There is a place on the eastern summit where they empty into a basin for swimming – you can see the whole valley from there,” Elladan added.

    “It sounds beautiful,” Maedhros commented, content to let them speak about a subject dear to them. He enjoyed the simple appreciation and happiness in their eyes – home, in a word defined. It was something he was glad they knew, and had always known. Better was it to raise children in a time of watchful peace, as they had been . . . happy and uncaring of the shadow that ever waited in Arda marred.

    Like so many others, he pushed that thought away, and tried to concentrate on the moment – focusing instead on the smell of leather and horse and pine from the forest around them. He concentrated on the reins in his hand, even if he led his mount more with his seat, encouraging the animal when the road turned steeper as it climbed.

    “We had thought that we would find nothing more beautiful than Imladris in this land, but I think the Valar heard our concerns. They say that Aulë pressed his fingers into the rock and Ulmo blew out his breath of water, and this valley was created as a gift for the Edhil born in Ennor.” Elladan's eyes sparkled as he said so. “I had thought myself too old for such tales, and yet . . . well, you will see.”

    And then, they were there.

    Another bend in the path turned, and then the trees opened up to a grand cliff-side view. The forest parted to reveal where the mountains looked down on a great valley carved below. From every direction, waterfalls poured over the cliffs from where the various rivers in the mountains met and mingled. Their spray caught on the sunlight and created patterns of prismed light in reflection. The mountain air and the mist carried a bright, sweet smell, refreshing in comparison to the green veil of the forest they stepped from. The rock itself hummed with enchantments and song – peace and healing surrounding the settlement in a near tangible way, more than a match for the mist and the roar of the waters below.

    Down in the valley, an elegant city rose up from the rock, twining and spinning with the play of water and the natural shape of the land. The architecture was gentle and graceful, all natural motifs of vines and graceful columns that resembled trees – some of which Maedhros remembered from when the twins had huddled together and spoke of their dreams of the future. Now, to see such a place given both life and breath . . .

    It was beautiful, he admitted. The valley was natural, built to merge with its setting rather than rise above it. It was different from the white marble glory of Tirion . . . the sea-side twist of Alqualondë's might, gleaming in soft coral pastels like the inside of a shell . . . the golden brilliance of Valmar at the base of the Valar's mountain. This fit those returned from the land across the sea, looking for the tentative promise of healing and life anew. This . . . was perfect, he could not help but think, glad as he was that the Valar gave these people a place of their own rather than a place long settled and lived in by too many immortal beings to count.

    “Here we are,” Elladan introduced with a broad sweeping of his hand. “The valley of Lantasírandë.”

    Maedhros looked, and found his heart quite taken. Behind him, he could feel Fingon's presence as he peered over his shoulder, yet he did not look back to see the other's face smiling and insufferable. Instead he followed the twins onwards, and together they rode down into the valley.

    They came through the gates beneath the watchful eye of two sentries – whom the twins waved to, and Maedhros ducked his head to avoid meeting their eyes. Already there were people crawling everywhere he looked, and he felt his heart rise in his throat at the press and mingle of the populace beyond. He had not been amongst such a crowd in . . . well, centuries. Even before his death it had been just he and Maglor more often than not, their host of men dwindling until they led only dozens beneath their father's banner. And then, once returning to life again . . .

    He breathed in deep, trying to quell the rush of anxiety he felt rising within him. They reached the stables, and once he crossed under the shadows of the stall, he knew relief as he slid from the saddle. He breathed into the bay's mane for a moment, gathering himself before he stepped back, ready to untack the animal when Fingon instead walked to his side and took the reins for him.

    “Leave that to me,” he said aloud, while silently he touched his mind with his own. I will not let you tarry here, Fingon chided, easily seeing through his attempt at providing himself with a distraction. Beyond them, Elladan and Elrohir gave their horses over to the grooms, and sent a page up to their parents to announce their return.

    Maedhros swallowed, slow as he was to give the reins to his friend. Better are you remembered for your valiance, rather than I, he returned wryly, the words inadequate to explain how much the thought of continuing onwards filled him with a fear that he had never found in battle. It was a fear he had only known as a child, standing before his father's critiquing eyes and wishing, hoping for Fëanor's favor as he was judged.

    Shakily, he inhaled. He let the breath out slow.

    Be that as it may, never have the tales dubbed you a coward, Fingon did not let him go so easily. He leaned closer on the pretense of rubbing down the bay's forehead, smiling when the stallion nickered in affection at the caress.

    That is because they did not see my heart, Maedhros admitted. There was fear enough there to cripple me at times.

    All know fear, Fingon said gently. It is how one acts upon that fear that matters in the end. You will do well, my friend, but only if you let yourself do so. Trust yourself, as I do.

    Trust . . . that more than anything else was proving harder to grasp and hold on to.

    Now, begone with you, Fingon sent with a brush of affection.

    And so . . . he trusted, and turned away from Fingon once the twins were ready to depart.

    They left the stables, and took a small path leading to the span of the settlement beyond. As he was led through the streets, many eyes turned to him – but it was as Fingon had predicted before. There was curiosity in the looks, but few eyes truly judged. For the most part, he was known through legend only, or there were those old enough to remember his deeds in the Elder Days without knowing him personally. There were those who remembered the good he did in his life; those who had fought in the north, who remembered how he had tried to lead and inspire the Noldor in Exile . . . There were those who remembered their losses at the Battle of Unnumbered Tears . . . those who remembered how he mourned Fingon's death and then shut himself off from the world after, refusing to bestir himself for anything but the fulfillment of his Oath.

    And . . . there were those in the valley who had survived Doriath . . . who had survived Sirion. There were those there who had fallen, and had returned to life anew, much like himself. Those eyes were cold and cautious upon them . . . but none were openly hostile, not in this place of warmth and healing.

    They walked over elegant bridges, through plazas and intersections and a bustling marketplace. Elrond's household was in full swing with the late afternoon, with seemingly every soul moving about on one task or another. The family's personal buildings in the settlement were calmer, but not by much. Many walked by with scrolls and harps, while the household staff saw to the day to day chores and made preparations for the evening meal.

    Ahead of them, Elladan wondered aloud about the possibility of trout for dinner – catching the eye of a passing she-elf in a kitchen apron. The cook stopped in her path, but instead of answering him, she asked about a missing platter of lemon cakes with an exaggerated crossness to her mouth as she spoke – telling him that he was much too old for such mischiefs. The Perelda only smiled charmingly as he extolled her unsurpassed talents with pastries, completely unrepentant, and she did nothing more but tweak his ear in chastisement before continuing on towards the kitchens.

    “Next time I shall tell her that it was you,” Elladan threatened when his twin tried to hold back his laughter behind his hand.

    “Bethril will never believe you,” Elrohir returned wryly. “She has not for centuries.”

    Elladan gave his brother a look, and held it until Elrohir reached into the pack he still had slung over his shoulder to bring out the wrapped remnants of the lemon cakes. He tossed the treat to his brother.

    “This is all I ask of you, brother dear,” Elladan said, smirking in triumph as he caught the package. In reply Elrohir muttered something underneath his breath that Maedhros could not catch.

    Following a step behind, Maedhros watched the domestic scene with a bittersweet sense of fondness, remembering what it had been like to be part of a large and spiraling community, no mater how many times he had tried to push the memories from his mind. The camaraderie between the twins reminded him of his own brothers, and he . . .

    With a pang, he thought of the family he had left behind in Mandos' Halls. Celegorm and Curufin would linger as their father did, waiting until the breaking of the world for the violence in their souls and their crimes in life – both healing and finding forgiveness as they aided and sought forgiveness from other healing souls. The Ambarussa had always been a strange pair, and they did well in Mandos' keeping - they each having little will to leave. Caranthir alone walked in the Halls fully aware and conscious of his decision to stay. He lingered much as Aegnor did to see where those of mortal-kind went within the black veils of death and what came after. Maedhros had asked his brother to come back to life with him, but the white of Caranthir's spirit had only brightened as with a smiling mouth. Though a bodiless spirit could feel not, he had felt as if he were being embraced as his little brother told him to go on and find himself again. Eternity was a long time, and it was not futile to hope in the possibility of a reunion. Someday, Maedhros believed in his heart, they all would meet again.

    That left only Maglor lost to him . . . Maglor, who had been dearest to him of his family in life, still walked the shores of Middle-earth beyond, even though the days of lore were swiftly passing the world by, their kind becoming as whispers to the sons of Men. Maglor would continue to sing to the sea in lamentation, waiting until . . .

    Maedhros set his mouth in a thin line, squaring his jaw as he thought of the one thing he would have to ask of the Valar when the time was right. He would not leave his brother to pay his penance until the end of time – not gentle Maglor with his poet's soul who had known truer grief for their actions than any. And yet, he was in no position to ask leave to bring him back. Not yet . . . not until . . .

    He inhaled once more. His breath shook as he let it free from his lungs. He did not know how long it would take until he would earn the right to ask the Valar's leave to see to this wish, and so, he tried not to think about his brother when he could help it. Especially now, when . . .

    The twins brought him next to a great and spiraling library – one twisting and spanning enough to match even the lore-master's halls in Tirion in its depth of content, if not in quantity. Maedhros blinked, taking in the scholar's horde of scrolls and tomes around him, even as he felt a smile tug upon his mouth as he remembered Elrond's penchant for stories and their telling, even as a child. Elros had always enjoyed hearing stories, and living them, at that, more than he held the tales of others dear. This time, he tried to hold his memory of Elros with fondness rather than pain. He was not quite sure if he was successful in the end.

    They cut through the library to where a modestly sized study was placed to overlook the gardens and one of the great tiers of waterfalls just beyond. The windows were open, and a sweet breeze swept through to gently tease the long drapes from their places. The walls were lined with more shelves, holding a personal collection separate from the library beyond. The desk before him was piled with scrolls and missives of every sort. Maedhros glanced, and saw that most pertained to the keeping of the valley, and he felt something turn inside of him. While he knew on a logical level that his former fosterling was now a leader of others, to see it before him was something else entirely. He breathed, and felt pride fill him. It had been a long time since he had last felt such an emotion, and it took him a moment to give a name to the feeling, foreign as it first was.

    “Adar will be here shortly,” Elladan said, watching as his gaze swept the room, trying to linger on everything at once. “Will you be comfortable waiting for a moment?”

    “Yes,” Maedhros nodded. “Of course.”

    “We will leave you until later, then,” Elladan inclined his head. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Nelyafinwë Maitimo.”

    “Likewise,” Maedhros raised a brow at the younger elf's cheek, but he found only amusement returned to him as the Perelda's eyes twinkled. Elladan turned to leave, and Elrohir followed a moment later, his steps soft as he followed his brother out.

    Alone, Maedhros fought himself as he tried to decide whether or not to take a seat or remain standing. He sat once, arranging his tunic and cloak before standing again. He paced two steps to the left before turning sharply on his heel to pace two steps to the right again. He tried sitting a second time. He tapped his fingers against his knee, restless in his own skin.

    No, he decided, that would not do.

    Maedhros stood again, and was looking at the odds and ends on the desk when he heard the whisper of a step behind him. Though light on his feet compared to the sons of Men, there was still that every second step that fell heavier than an elven stride – something that had often betrayed the twins when they were up to mischief as children – and he recognized it now.

    He turned, and -

    - it had been too long, was the one thought he could pick out from the sudden maelstrom of emotions and feelings that suddenly assaulted his mind. Much too long, indeed . . .

    When he and Maglor had left the twins to Gil-galad's care, they had been children no more, but neither were they into their majority as young adults. It was hard to judge how the Pereldar matured with their mortal blood flowing alongside that elven – but they had each been long and awkward of limb, with their faces stuck between a child's youthful roundness and an adult's more defined features. At that point, they had to release the children. If they would have waited any longer, it would have been more difficult than it already was for the two to fit themselves into elven society - with all looking at them and seeing only that they had been raised and molded by the toxic hands of Kinslayers. The earlier they could get them to Gil-galad the easier it would be for them, especially when it became more than apparent that Eärendil was never returning to Endórë for the sons he had left behind.

    It was a pain akin to the grief he knew for each of his brothers' deaths to let the young ones go, but it was a bittersweet pain – knowing as they did that they at last did the right thing. He and Maglor had not met the twins until half a century later, during the days just following the end of the War of Wrath. The awkward children they had left behind were still not a century old, but they bore an adult's body and mind, wearing armor and holding swords centuries earlier than Maedhros and his brothers had been introduced to the art of war.

    . . . yet, Endórë was cruel that way, and Elrond and Elros had been forced to grow and mature faster than most.

    He had known pride, even then, in that small part of his mind that was not consumed by the Silmarils being so close at hand. Elros had captained his own ship in Círdan's fleet when the host of Eönwë fell upon Morgoth's forces - surviving dragonfire from above and slaying the great wyrms Morgoth had set upon the waters, while Elrond had been at Gil-galad's side on the ground – learning the extent of his healer's abilities with the constant string of soldiers who had fallen to blade and black spellwork and unnatural flame all. Maedhros regretted not being able to tell them of his pride, for he had no words within him but for Eönwë and his possession of the Silmarils from Morgoth's broken crown. He had been able to see nothing other than that, and now . . . Now, he would never have the chance to tell Elros any of his innermost thoughts, but Elrond . . .

    The face before him was the same in shape, even if time and wisdom had smoothed over a youth's untried lines. Though the Quendi did not age as mortals did, they still carried the weight of their uncountable years about them, and he could feel the great ages of the world upon the man before him. Maedhros swallowed as he took in the familiar pale grey eyes and the black hair – Lúthien's gifts to her children, even when the strong features were of Turgon's line – Finwë's house - to a fault. He had thought himself ready for the wave of feeling he would experience at seeing his former ward (his child) again, but he was not. He felt as a fledgling tree in a strong storm, with untried roots holding him to the ground. His throat was suddenly dry. He had no words to shape his thoughts – unsure as he was of what to say . . . unsure as he was of what would be welcomed by the other to hear . . .

    Pacing like a caged bear, Elladan had said, and Maedhros clung to that, thinking that maybe, just maybe . . . Elrond regretted the shape of the years the same as he did.

    Elrond seemed to be struck with his same affliction of silence, at the very least. His eyes were wide and flickering – nearly disbelieving at first. Maedhros watched as they lingered on the flame of his hair, and then fell down to his two hands – both hands - before tracing the silvery scars that could still be seen on his hands and neck and face. Something flickered in the depths of his gaze before passing away, and yet Maedhros could not ask him the shape of his thoughts when he could not yet deign his own.

    “I believe that I now understand what the Atani mean when they say that they have grown old,” Maedhros said, at last finding his voice. “For I feel my every year now, most acutely indeed.”

    . . . he had so many questions at the tip of his tongue, but he could not shape them all at once. He was not sure where to begin.

    Elrond blinked, the cord between them snapping as he called himself to some semblance of order. “Try having the blood of Men within you,” he said wryly in reply. His voice had deepened with age. Now Maedhros heard the adult speak where he had only known the youth before. “It only intensifies the feeling.”

    “I can imagine,” Maedhros said, forcing a pleasant expression to his face. He struggled not to stare. “It is . . .” his voice faltered. He tried again. “Forgive me, but I am rather at a loss of what to say,” he admitted, going with blunt honesty when his words failed him. “I have much I want to say, and yet . . .”

    “There are no scripts for such meetings,” Elrond said, and he heard the same uncertainty in his voice that he felt within . . . uncertainty, but not anger. Instead, Elrond's gaze seemed to be as hungry as his own was. It was understandable, Maedhros thought then, for him to grow to love a child in his care. But for that child to form any sort of positive emotion for the one who had destroyed their home and pushed their parents across the sea . . . who abandoned them more than once, in more ways than one . . . He could not fathom it.

    He swallowed, but even as blacker emotions filled him, he felt a soft feeling of peace growing to fight the blackness away – a sensation of warmth and light. It was a healer's touch, he knew from past experience, and he looked at Elrond, wondering if the other was even consciously aware of his doing so. Probably not, he reflected, not after centuries of reflexively strengthening those around him with the light of his own spirit.

    He should start with an apology, Maedhros knew. He looked around for something to let his eyes rest upon, not wanting to stare like a fool. He tried to think of a way to word what he felt, but anything he could think to say came laughably short.

    Maedhros caught sight of a small portrait sitting on Elrond's desk – a painting of an impossibly beautiful woman, with eyes the colour of silver twilight and hair like the night itself. Maedhros blinked, for though he had never personally met Lúthien Tinúviel himself, he had seen the great portrait of her likeness in the King's chambers when . . . when they sacked Doriath, he forced himself to complete the thought. He would have thought this painting to be a miniature of the first, so uncanny was the likeness.

    He then remembered one tale Turgon had to tell, one that all of Aman fairly buzzed with. But where the tale was one of death and fate and the indomitable force of love to most lips, he only knew a pang at its telling, feeling the grief that the girl's father must have certainly felt at her choice – especially after a lifetime of such pains.

    “Your daughter . . . she looks like Lúthien,” he said, explaining his stare. He glanced down to the portrait again.

    “In more ways than one,” was Elrond's rueful reply. It was easier to speak of others then, he thought – and a father never needed much coaxing to speak of a favored child. “In wisdom and beauty and love all was she Lúthien's match. Arwen brightened the lives of all those she touched.”

    Though her death was nearly three centuries ago, Maedhros listened, and could still hear fresh blood on a wound long scabbed over in the grief of his voice. First Elros . . . and then Arwen. And he . . . he had been there for neither. He had . . .

    “I have been away for too long,” Maedhros muttered, not merely speaking of the days that had passed since his rembodiment. “I have missed too much.”

    “And yet, you are here now,” Elrond said simply in reply. And it was that simple, Maedhros realized – it always was that easy for him.

    He made fists of his hands. He wanted to talk about something – anything other that the weight on the air between them.

    “Your sons?” Maedhros threw out next, all too obvious in his diversion. “They looked strong . . . happy,”

    “Happy enough,” Elrond replied, allowing him his distraction. “Aman agrees with Elrohir, but not so much with Elladan. And yet, he bears through his immortal days for the sake of his twin and his family. He is with Eärendil more often than not - for he understands the heart of a Man trapped within endless days as few others can.”

    Elrond was quiet after saying so – thoughtful, even. Maedhros felt a pang when what was all too commonly spoken of as gossip from Tirion to Alqualondë was now revealed as a truth. That was two children who chose against their natures, he thought then - and both did so for love of others. As always, the Choice of the Pereldar was as much a burden as it was a gift, the weight of actions and their consequences once again weighing and striking in deep.

    “I am glad that you know pride as a father,” he said when what he wanted to say . . . what he needed to say, was seemingly locked within his throat.

    Elrond watched him carefully as he fought with himself, that same something in his eyes that he had even as a child – seeing with insights deep and wise, even though his years were tender. He read hearts much as Artanis did, and Maedhros stood there and waited for him to see what he would see. Years ago, this very thing would have unsettled him. Now he was simply glad that the other could see what he could not say.

    “Angmaenor,” Elrond said after a moment, and Maedhros blinked, not understanding. “It is not tradition outside of Aman to give a child two names, yet I was raised by those who still followed the old ways and Celebrían humored my wish . . . she understood. Angmaenor, Elladan is also called, and Mallangron, Elrohir is known by.”

    Maedhros' throat was suddenly very tight. His lungs hurt in his chest. He opened his mouth, but no sound came out. He . . .

    Angmaenor . . . Mallangron . . . both were more elegant translations of he and Maglor's names. Maglor took the simplest name possible upon reaching Middle-earth, leaving out the gold from Nerdanel's name for him and translating only the sword in Sindarin, with nothing to soften the harsh translation in his own form of penance for their deeds at Alqualondë. Now his brother's name was given in full and honored. While Angmaenor was another translation of his Sindarin name, rather than either of the names his parents gave to him, such a thing was fitting, he thought. Such a thing was . . .

    He pressed his mouth into a line as understanding sunk in, both humbled and touched as he was in that moment.

    “We could not acknowledge such names publicly,” Elrond continued, understanding that he could not yet speak. “And yet, in our own home, where all understood . . .”

    Maedhros swallowed, and did so around a stone. His eyes burned in his face as he slowly relaxed his hands from fists. He could not . . .

    “You were never forgotten or cursed,” Elrond said gently. “Rather, you were mourned . . . and remembered.”

    Maedhros could no longer remain standing. His legs would not let him. “I missed much,” he said, taking a seat for the first. He fought against the urge to drop his head into his hands, overwhelmed as he was.

    “Well then, we shall have to fill in the blanks of the years you have missed,” Elrond said wryly. “Fitting is it then, that we have eternity to do so.” His voice took on a note of teasing – picking him up much the same as the warmth then touching his spirit.

    Fill in the blanks, Maedhros thought. He did not know where to start . . . He had apologies and explanations upon his lips, but he could not force one of them from his mouth. He would not, he knew then, until he had earned the forgiveness he would seek, once he again earned the son he had in heart, if not in blood.

    And so, he closed his eyes, and made the plunge.

    “So . . . Artanis' daughter is your bride?” Maedhros forced a smile to his mouth. It was a motion that was becoming easier and easier as the days went by - growing things turning for the sun and all that, Fingon would say if he were there. At the thought, he felt the other smile against his spirit, offering him strength, and this time he accepted. He took it as his own.

    He leaned back in his seat, knowing a measure of contentment as he said, “It took centuries for Celeborn to coax Artan - Galadriel - into the role of wife, let alone that of a mother, and I must admit that the idea is one that boggles my mind . . . How exactly did that come about?” He wanted to know all that he had missed.

    And Elrond was as ready to begin as he was. He took a seat across from him, settling in for what would no doubt be a long conversation, and started his story from the beginning.






    End Notes:

    I am sorry if I hit you guys over the head with feelings there, but it had to be done. ;) So much of that was introspection and head-canon rambling on, but I could not help myself. [face_love]

    I only have a few short notes on translation:

    Nolofinwë: Fingolfin
    Arafinwë: Finarfin
    Artanis: Galadriel
    Makalaurë: Maglor
    Maitimo: Maedhros
    Perelda/Pereldar: Quenyan form of Peredhil/Peredhel, meaning Half-elf/Half-elves

    Lantasírandë: According to my very choppy Quenyan, this means 'valley of falling water'. Or it may translate to 'my blue shoe' for all of my skill with languages. But I tried. ;)

    Mallangron: Interesting enough, Makalaurë means 'golden sword', referring to Maglor's voice. When he translated his name, he did not carry over the 'gold'. He only kept the 'sword', and did not even add a gender specific suffix. 'Maglor' simply means 'sword-user', and nothing more than that. So I wonder if the blunt translation was his own form of atonement. [face_thinking] Mallangron is the full translation of his name - once more, created with my choppy skills. :p

    Angmaenor: A more ornate version of 'Maedhros', meaning 'skilled with iron'.


    That said, I hope that you all enjoyed this piece, and until next time - [:D]


    ~MJ @};-
     
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  15. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wonderful reunions and rapprochements - and what a gorgeous tranquil valley :)
     
  16. serendipityaey

    serendipityaey Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 24, 2004
    The end is so beautiful! You're writing is so rich, a wonderful, heartfelt, moving piece. I really liked when Maedhros kept turning back and forth on the path, and the descriptions of the valley were so beautiful!
     
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  17. Cael-Fenton

    Cael-Fenton Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2006
    [Obi-Wan] Mod Mira_Jade, feelings are our specialty [/Obi-Wan]. We're fanficcers, we can't get enough of them.

    I like reading other peoples' headcanon (as long as it's compatible with mine :p ). And I love getting inside their heads. Not everyone's, but definitely your Maedhros. He really needs a hug. The reunion was just exactly right. Not too mushy, but nevertheless brimming with so much feeling.



    edit
    Thanks for the clip :)
    I never thought of it exactly that way...yeah, he must've been as tough as any of the Ringbearers to have held out literally next to Dol Guldur without one, as he did.
     
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  18. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: Why thank-you so much, my friend! [:D]

    serendipityaey: Aww, thank-you so much for the kind words, and taking the time to stop in. I always appreciate your doing so! [:D]

    Cael-Fenton: Then the feelings will just have to continue then! [face_laugh][:D] I am glad that my head-canon is fitting well with you, especially with Maedhros. I'd like to be the one to give him that hug, but for now he has Fingon. And a whole extended family he needs to let close enough to do so, to boot. :p [face_love] As always, thank-you so very much for reading, and taking the time to leave your thoughts! [:D]



    Now, this update is for the NSWFF prompt: 'magnet, steel' - I know, done before the deadline, at that! :eek::p This is yet another story in my Caranthir/Haleth arc of tales, which picks up right where the last one left off. (Ficlets CVII, CXXXIX, and CXLIII for reference. :)) While I have stayed canon-compliant with these so far, we start to deviate a little here. Technically this is still canon-friendly, but not really - not unless Tolkien had something in his head he didn't tell the rest of us about. ;) [face_mischief]

    As always, I thank you all for reading, and I hope that you enjoy! [:D]






    “with thoughts of flight”

    CLX. Magnet

    Outside, the snows swirled and thrashed like an angry spirit through the mountain ways. The storms were fierce, with lightning flashing through the angry clouds while the winds howled like one of Morgoth's wrathful spirits. Though the first days of spring was supposed to bring relief from the winter's angry might, the slight warming of the temperatures had done little to lift the temperature past freezing - now, they merely had ice and freezing rain to contend with alongside the snow. The storms kept even the bravest of souls indoors, turning the steep passes of mount Rerir into more perilous a home than usually they were.

    For the most part, his people at Lake Helevorn were content with the delay to the start of their year. They busied themselves with duties indoors; making plans to accommodate the late start they would have to their season in the fields, and rationing what supplies they did have to see everyone comfortably through until the winter broke. Sitting with him before the massive hearth in the Great Hall, his eldest brothers were already planning how the harvest at the end of the warm months would affect their supplying their troops on the front lines. Such a matter was important for more than his own people, and Caranthir was paying attention - truly he was.

    The wind whistled, rattling the windows in their places. He stared out the tall panes, his look darkening when he saw nothing but a mass of silver and grey where normally there was a view of the glittering black lake and the gently rolling foothills just beyond. The storms were unimpressed by his annoyance; in fact, they only seemed to pick up in intensity for the fervency of his stare.

    Sighing in defeat, he slumped back in his seat. He was supposed to have departed nearly a fortnight ago for Estolad, but the snow on the roadways and the frozen condition of the Gelion river made such a journey impossible to all but the most reckless – which, Caranthir was but moments away from proving himself to be. Maglor and Maedhros too had delayed their return to Himring for the severity of the winter storms, yet, unlike Caranthir, they waited through the unnaturally long winter with an unblinking patience. A month – two months, three, ten – was a blinking in the eyes of an Elf, and so, he did not bother explaining his restlessness, lest it be looked on oddly in return.

    He had only told Haleth to look for him with the coming of the spring. He made no promises; he had fixed no dates. And yet . . . he did not want her to think that he so easily cast thought of her aside. He did not want her to think that he saw only her few years - her people as a sapling trying to grow amongst rocky soil, his interest waning when they turned his offer of aid and tenantship on his lands aside. Even if he gained nothing by helping the Haladin, help he still wished to provide, and yet, she would not know that as long as the winter kept him confined to his place.

    And . . . it hurt, more than anything else, the idea that she was somewhere in the world, thinking ill of him. It twisted at his stomach and prickled at his skin, and no matter how much he tried, he could not get the feeling to fade. He could not force his thoughts to still. He felt drawn to her as the moon tugged on the tide, and his spirit was oddly restless in the shell of his body with every day that kept him from her. He could not . . .

    Frustrated, he furrowed his brow and tried once more to pay attention to Maedhros' words. This was more important than any fascination he had with the new settlement at Estolad, and he had to -

    The quill he was using snapped from the pressure of his fingers, and ink splattered up to dot the front of his tunic. He knocked the well of ink over when he moved to clean the first mess, and he bit back a curse as he went to mop the black puddle up. Maedhros stopped speaking long enough to raise a scarlet brow, and Caranthir did not look up to see the glance he traded with Maglor – he could imagine it well enough.

    “Perhaps,” Maedhros said dryly, “We should continue these talks in the morning.”

    “I am not so sure,” Maglor responded wryly, “I fear that the storms will still be waging come tomorrow, and I have no wish to risk more defenseless quills in Caranthir's hands.”

    . . . perhaps he did not hide his restlessness as well as he thought he did, Caranthir acknowledged with a grimace. He was deluding himself to think his thoughts and motives secret in the first place.

    Maedhros gave an audible sigh, and gathered together the scrolls and maps he had set out on the table between them. He left with little more than a nod, and Maglor let him go. Caranthir narrowed his eyes, knowing that Maedhros left to ensure that he would confide in Maglor if he would not speak to them both – for his love of his first was coupled with an awe and solemn respect more so than adoration and comfortable ease. Ever instead had he found that ease with Maglor.

    Maglor waited for one moment, and then two. Yet Caranthir did not give him the satisfaction of speaking right away, instead cutting the tip of a new quill away with an exaggerated precision. The effect was ruined by the tips of his fingers still being shadowed by spilled ink.

    “You,” Maglor said slowly, “have been restless the whole winter through.” His voice was warm and melodious - coaxing, unconsciously threaded with power. Behind him, the fire in the hearth crackled and popped in counterpoint to his words, answering to the song he uttered even when speaking.

    Caranthir shrugged. “I am every winter,” he said nonchalantly. “I do detest being confined indoors.”

    “So I see,” Maglor said. Caranthir considered shaving his eyebrow in his sleep if he did not cease raising it at him. For a moment, the thought brought him comfort. “The lands are warmer to the south-west,” he continued in a careful voice. “You spent most of the last year there, or so I heard.”

    Caranthir set his jaw. “The hunting was good this year,” he gave with a shrug, “It is true.”

    “A hunting for Atani maids?” Maglor finally asked outright. Caranthir darted a glare at his brother, the orange light from the fire dancing over them both.

    “I have aided Haleth of the Haladin, it is true,” he answered, knowing that anything else would be viewed as a deflection. “I would not call that a hunt, though. There were Orcs on my land, and now there are not. It is no more than what any of us would do – what you would have done in my place.”

    “I see,” Maglor said slowly. Caranthir studiously avoided looking his way, even when he could feel the pointed weight of his stare. “Yet, the Haladin have dwelt on your lands for nearly thirty years.” Maglor remarked. “You did not care for their troubles before.”

    “Do not worry,” Caranthir said ruefully, “I will be no Finrod in my dealings with the Men.” He fought back an old wave of distaste for his uncle's sons, and then continued, “I simply had my eyes opened during the battle and the days after. I first viewed the sons of Men as little more than beasts of the field – limited by their days and quickly passing through anything of interest to me. Yet . . . I was arrogant in my assumptions. They are a young race, but a race with potential once they grow into themselves. They are strong for all that nature has said they should not be, and their determination is more than enough to make up for any shortcoming of their years . . . I found a new respect for them, and any aid I offered was in part to make amends for the years I stood idly by. The Haladin took a grievous blow with the Orc raids, and if I had acted sooner, their numbers would be four . . . five times what they are now.”

    Maglor stared at him, and this time Caranthir looked up, forcing himself to meet his brother's eyes. There was a curiosity in his gaze, an understanding, as well . . . nearly sad in shape. He narrowed his own gaze in challenge for seeing so.

    “You care for her,” Maglor said. There was a statement in his words, rather than a question.

    He had to fight to keep his face neutral. “Do not jest, Makalaurë, it does not suit you.” Even so, a warm lance of feeling pierced through him – which was even more disconcerting than his brother's words. He swallowed.

    Maglor's look softened in reply. “Carnistir,” he said, and the warmth in his voice made something tight settle about his throat. “Do you have feelings for this woman?”

    At first, denial was sharp and pointed on his tongue. He could feel his face flush and his eyes narrow, and yet . . .

    His stomach twisted as he remembered his first sight of her: freeing her long hair from her battered helm, and looking on him as if he were another foe of the field to face. Child, he had called her, asking for her to show him to her lord. Now, he could imagine no one greater in her place, and his words brought only a flicker of amusement in retrospect. He then remembered laughing with her as she struggled with learning his tongue . . . finding empathy for her trials as she shared with him the story of her people . . . experiencing her understanding when he whispered of his Oath and sins. He thought of her eyes sparkling as she awkwardly played the role of courtly lady with his dwarven guests, remembering how the candlelight threw dancing patterns on her skin as she smiled like the girl she had never had a chance to be, and . . .

    Carnistir, she had breathed, her deep voice catching on the syllables of his name and pouring them like something molten for the way they burned his spirit. His heart ached in his chest, and a dull light clung to his skin as his fëa unconsciously answered the shape of his thoughts, his spirit having long decided before his mind consciously made his choice, and . . .

    He could not utter a reply. He could not find the words, stunned and stupid as he was in response to his own thoughts. No, he could only think. He did not . . . he could not . . . He would not be so stupid.

    Once, long ago, he had thought to find and know love in Aman, following after Eldalótë with star-struck eyes and hesitant words of devotion on his lips. He had been awkward and cumbersome with his more tender emotions, and she had not seen them for what they truly were. She had seen only his temper when his frustration overwhelmed everything else, and had not of the want or will to deal with the hard lines of his character. When she accepted his cousin Angrod's suit, he had fallen into a black cast of spirits – nearly doing Curufin a real harm (his brother was over a century younger than him, and yet, he was already expecting a child with his wife) when he dared laugh and jest meanly over his unluckiness in love. It had been Celegorm who had pulled them apart with an odd understanding in his eyes, pushing Curufin away with sharp words on his tongue to match. Afterward, Maglor had picked him up in his easy way – explaining that love was ever found in pairs, one finding another where the One had divided their souls at their births. If her soul did not match his own, then he was only saving himself the heartache of an unequal bond.

    An unequal bond, he now thought without humor. This was a true joke in the eyes of the One; a true punishment for his deeds of old. If Haleth had been elven, he knew that it would not have taken him so long to know his own thoughts. He would have considered himself blessed - for she bore her own hard lines of spirit, yet, rather than cutting against each other, they soothed each other like the fierce current of white river would sooth the jagged stones beneath. And now . . .

    He swallowed, his breath suddenly thick in his throat.

    “Carnistir,” Maglor gave his name on a sigh, understanding even before he answered. He shook his head, still trying to deny the shape of his thoughts.

    “No,” Caranthir protested, his voice dry from his throat. “The idea is . . .” silly . . . preposterous . . . ridiculous . . . Even as he thought so, something inside of him turned alight with the thought. Something within him soared, and he had to work to breathe around the sudden light flaring up from his spirit.

    “Be careful,” Maglor said, his voice taking on a note of worry more than warning. “Perhaps, it would be best to keep your distance -”

    “ - because she is mortal?” the words were hissed from his mouth. His fëa, already so close to the surface of his skin, spiked sharply in unison with his words.

    “Precisely,” Maglor answered, unfazed by his temper. “And yet, not in the way you would think. I doubt not the lady's worth or strength of character – for you would not be drawn to anything less, and it would take a strong spirit to wrestle such a command over the Atani, especially with their views on their woman kind.” He was silent for a moment, clearly thinking on how best to phrase his words. “And yet . . . she is mortal, with a mortal's allotment of years.”

    He clenched his teeth. For a moment, something inside of him hurt at the thought.

    And Maglor continued. “You may think you love her – you may actually truly love her, and yet . . . is that love strong enough to watch her grow old? To watch her age and whither away?” He was merciless in the frank cast of his words, and to hear them spoken was akin to suffering a blow. “I do not want to see you have to bear through such a thing.”

    Caranthir swallowed, the cheerful crackling of he fire sounding like white noise in his ears. Beyond him, the storm struck and spun, matching the turbulence in his heart.

    “And,” Maglor continued, “If your love for her is strong enough to endure watching her age . . . is it strong enough to endure her death? Will you be able to handle such a sundering in your spirit, knowing not the fate of Men when they die? Such a parting is impossible for some elven couples, and in this instance . . . Please . . . I do not think that I could watch you fade to follow her.”

    Caranthir moved his mouth, but he could not force a sound to emerge. What he wanted to say: She has known my sins and heard my vows, yet she has not shunned me . . . Her words are frank to me, and wise for the short span of her days. I grow in her presence, I learn, and I am a better man for knowing her . . . My spirit all but sings when she is near, and it is painful to think of anything else than giving into that tug . . . She knows my name, my name, and I want . . .

    “You are able to survive being parted from Nyarissë,” he said on a low whisper, hating his words even as he said them, “even though you would rather not be. You are proof that such a sundering can be survived.”

    For a long moment, Maglor did not speak. “Then let me say only that it is an agony greater than any physical pain that can be inflicted on the body, to be parted from one your very soul is bound to,” Maglor's warm grey eyes were shadowed as he remembered the wife he had left behind in Aman. “And yet, I left her for sake of my own pride and Oath; death did not take her from me. I left her willingly, and if the One is kind I shall meet her again . . . though I know not if she will ever have me in return. But at least I have the possibility of that reunion. I have the idea of someday to hold onto, while you . . .”

    This would be permanent. Final. Forever. Even to his immortal mind, such a concept was difficult to grasp.

    Caranthir took in a deep breath. He let it out slow. “I shall use caution,” was all that he would say – it was all he could say when he now had much to think on. Much to consider. “And yet,” he acknowledged with a pang greater than thinking of her end to come, “It does not matter what I think. The lady in question finds me disagreeable, harsh, and arrogant. There is not much use in defining my own heart when I know her own well enough.”

    Maglor raised a brow. “She is not entirely wrong,” he said, a note of teasing in his voice that Caranthir could not help but smile sadly for. “And yet . . .” he thought about saying something more before clearly deciding against it. He shook his head. “Only . . . be careful,” Maglor entreated him one last time. “That is all I ask.”

    Caranthir could not speak in reply to his words. Instead, he looked down at the broken quill in his hands, running the tip of his callused thumb over the severed edge with a restless fascination.

    Maglor inclined his head sharply, and leaned forward to set aside his own scrolls. “Now,” he said, a forced cheerfulness to his voice. “I have been working on a new composition whilst stranded here. Would you like to hear it?”

    Caranthir set the broken quill aside. “I would,” he said, meaning his words. As Maglor retrieved his harp, he leaned back in his seat by the fire, letting nothing but his brother's song and the storm beyond fill his mind. For a moment, he thought of nothing more.



    .

    .

    CLXI. Steel

    The spring was slow to come that year.

    The winter lingered on the plains, hanging grey and cold over their heads for weeks longer than it should have. The fierce season wreaked havoc on their new dwellings, and delayed the building they had planned to complete with the first warm days the year. Now the ground was muddy and thick with snow melt, and yet, the first promise of warmth whispered on the breeze. All in Estolad moved with vigor and renewed spirits as they cast aside the winter and prepared for their first full year in their new home.

    With the first month of more sedate temperatures, they were able to repair the damage the winter storms had done to the stables, and finished the building in whole as they could not the fall before. Haleth stood critically before the racks that held the tack, trying to remember exactly how the stables at Lake Helevorn had been laid. It was clever and practical of the elves, she had thought then, and now . . .

    She moved the stand of bridles into its new place with more force than was strictly necessary, annoyed with the turn of her thoughts. The winter was fierce over the flat lands – she could only imagine how the storms would have raged in the mountains. A delay on his part was to be expected, and -

    He owes nothing to you, she reminded herself. You cast aside his offer of aid when he gave it, and told him more than once that you need nothing of him. Why are you now surprised when he is eager to be rid of you? Do not search the horizon for him; do not wait for him at all. It is only pain you court.

    Still . . . Haleth set about moving the saddles next, sure than Caranthir's people had arranged theirs like so . . .

    Just in case he honors his promise to come, she told herself. Her cheeks flushed for her own censure. Just . . . in case.

    “You have moved those same saddles five times now,” came an amused voice from the entrance to the tack-room. “The horse-master is starting to think that he has done something wrong to earn so much of your attention.”

    Haleth looked up to see her brother's widow with a raised brow and sharp eyes that saw too much. Taemes was a tall woman, built slim and straight like a reed – more like the woman of Bëor in comparison to the shorter and curved woman of the Haladin. Her eyes were brown and observant, and her hair was a shade of the earth to match, smartly bound away from her face in deference to the tasks of the day. In the stalls beyond, she could hear a child's laughter, and knew that her nephew had coaxed his mother away from her work to visit the horses again, eager for riding now that the ground was drying for him to do so.

    “I had explicit instructions for the design of the stables,” Haleth said in explanation, moving a now damp strand of hair back from her face. “I want to prove that I was paying attention.”

    “You place a lot of stock in his opinion,” Taemes observed.

    Haleth shrugged, not liking the look her good-sister leveled at her. “When it comes to horses, yes I do,” she gave with a wry look.

    Taemes did not smile at her flippant words as she would have hoped. If anything, she looked unsure for a moment – and that, more than anything else, caused a stab of worry to rise in her gut. Taemes was never anything but forthright, and that quality was one she appreciated in the other woman - her friend since girlhood. While the Haladin were a tough, hardy folk - their woman working the fields alongside the men, and each skilled with the small knives they kept about the belts of their kirtles - Haleth still surpassed her companions in want for sport and hunt. Rather than offending her delicate sensibilities, Taemes had only ever been amused and accepting of her character. Haleth had counted herself as blessed when her brother finally worked up the courage to ask her longtime friend for her hand, and even now that her twin had passed on, she counted herself as fortunate that Taemes was there to share his memory with her.

    “I do not know how to say this,” Taemes started, hesitant with her words. If she was any other woman, Haleth believed that she would have wrung her hands in the fabric of her dress. Instead, Taemes only stared levelly at her, a flickering in her eyes the only sign of her discomfort.

    Haleth raised a brow in reply. “Speaking plainly is oftentimes the best way,” she encouraged. “Or, at least, I have always tried to do so myself - for better or ill, which you know well of me.”

    Again, Taemes did not rise to her attempt to lighten the shadow on her brow. She worked her jaw once, twice, and then she said, “It has been whispered that you put much weight into the thoughts and opinions of the Elf-lord . . . it is whispered that it is not Haleth Haldad's daughter who leads the Haladin . . . but rather, the Fëanorian . . . there are murmurs, especially from those who were ill at ease for you taking the title of Chieftess to begin with.”

    Haleth set her jaw as she arranged the rack of saddle blankets to her content. She let her fingers rest against the rough wool as she said, “Who has voiced such whispers?”

    Taemes' face flushed. “Hathor has said -”

    At that Haleth turned, a dark look on her face, “I have told Hathor on several occasions that marrying my brother's widow does not give him a say in the running of our people. He is doing right by you, and for that I respect him, but he is no more of my father's blood than any other of the vultures who watch for me to falter – and I will not hear of him speaking so again.”

    Taemes looked down. “He means well,” she said, but her words were thin to her own ears. For a long moment, there was silence between them. “I . . . we have not spoken much of this, mainly because I do not know the words to say. Yet . . . I want you to know that I loved your brother dearly . . . I still do.”

    At that, Haleth's ire softened. She forced herself to smile – for the Orc raids had left few of their families untouched in their wake. Taemes had her son and no husband, while Hathor had lost his wife, and had two young daughters to raise on his own. They fit, even when they would rather have that which they had lost. “And Haldar would have wanted you provided for,” Haleth tried to assure Taemes that she did not blame her for her choice. “You will need a husband to work the fields, and Haldan needs a father. I . . . I understand. Haldar would understand too.”

    Haleth swallowed. With the spring, her brother and father were a year dead, and sometimes, their loss still did not seem quite real. She breathed out with her pain, and pushed it aside. As she always did.

    “Yet, Hathor is not the only one who thinks this way,” Taemes continued grimly. “I know how much stock you put into leading our people, and how much your role means to you. I would not want to see you forced aside with your fondness for the elf blinding you to the concerns of your people.”

    Haleth hissed out a breath through her nose. “For a man may lead and have a family at once, for it is assumed that his wife will do little more than mind the children and his house without giving voice to the opinions that the One put into her mind. Yet, if a woman dares to give into the simple urgings of nature and seek a family of her own, she is not to be trusted – for obviously her chosen man will be the true leader of her people with his whispering into her ear. Eru forbid if I ever give into the natural want for a child! I could not possibly lead and be a mother at once then, could I?”

    An old, angry wound opened with Taemes words. Haleth flushed with both anger and frustration for her outburst. Taemes already knew her thoughts, and her temper would get her nowhere. She ran a hand through her hair in frustration, musing her braid even further.

    “Not that it matters,” Haleth amended her words with a note of self-deprecating humor. “I speak with nothing more than the bitterness of an old maid.”

    And that was true . . . even before her father's death, she had few suitors eager for her hand. She was plain of face and strong of hand, better with a sword than working a spinning wheel. Her mother had died with her birth, and her father had raised her the best he could on his own. He had taught her side by side with her brother, yet in those lessons was not the proper way to mind a house or raise a child. Instead she was taught to read and write and form her own opinions, to hold shield and sword, and solve disputes of land while balancing the needs of the whole alongside those of the few. None of her skills were those a man sought in his goodwife. She was grateful for her father's lessons, for Haldad's influence had crafted her into the woman she now was. And yet, there were times . . . she had watched as prettier, more genteel girls were snatched up by the eligible men of their people. At first, it had been her peers, and then girls younger and even younger still than her were claimed as brides while she stood still, watching . . . waiting . . . Now she was years older than the typical age for marriage, and unable to indulge a suitor even if she wanted to. Though she told herself that she did not care . . . that she did not need a husband, that she did not need a child to call her own . . . sometimes, the thought still brought with it an ache of its own.

    Haleth pursed her mouth, trying to smile. “I should be glad that I was not already wed when my father fell. I would have had no hope for claiming my title then. The One ensured my singleness as a blessing.” And she believed those words to be true . . . most of the time.

    Taemes was not as fooled as she. Haleth fought the urge she had to turn away from her knowing stare. “It is a hard, unfair world we live in; this the Haladin know better than most. And yet . . . not once, in all of your words, did you deny that you want.”

    Right on cue, her face flushed. Haleth felt as her heart did a peculiar sort of movement in her chest. “I did not have to say it, for it does not even bear speaking. It is so obviously impossible.” The words stuck to her tongue. She felt as if she was speaking around a knife with their uttering. “He is elf-kind; I am mortal. He shall live to see the vast ages of the world unfold, while I will try to do what I can in the few years I have given to me. I . . . I will take advantage of his wisdom, but I know better than to seek anything more than that.” She snorted, fondness touching her voice where she had not intended for it. “And, besides the barrier of our races, I have never met one more entitled and arrogant than he! I want to hit him more often than not . . . and yet . . .” Then he would speak about his Oath with sorrow in his eyes . . . or whisper his real name to her . . . He would stare at her while she danced as if she was something lovely to behold, and she would . . .

    Haleth shook her head, frustrated with her thoughts.

    “No one would fault you for thinking so. He is beautiful,” Taemes commented grudgingly. “Something you can't find outside of a dream, many have noted.”

    Haleth set her mouth, the wave of jealousy, and worse – possessiveness, that pierced through her when she imagined other woman noticing what she had tried not to . . . it only bode ill for her, and she did not like the implications of her self-awareness. “And there you have it,” she forced a note of humor into her voice, “I could never seriously court a man who has better hair than I.”

    Taemes gave a snort of amusement, which she could not keep from turning into a full bellied peal of laughter. Haleth was unable to keep from joining her in her mirth, feeling lighter then than she had in days. She felt cleansed with doing so, letting a coil inside of her unfurl and release its tension. She let her dreams and wishes go, and thought only of what she had before her that she could touch. She made steel of her thoughts and stone of her heart. The spring beyond seemed more real then, tangible, even.

    “I am Haleth of the Haladin,” she tossed her head, meaning her words even as she spoke them. “I will want or bow to none. I do not need a man to toil the day through while I cook and clean and tend to his crying brats day in and day out. I will not have to put through his attempts at conversation while he drinks away the night – after which he may or may not force me to suffer underneath his bulk while he tries to give me yet another child to tend to, only to rise long before the sun to do it all over again. No. I will be my own person, and make my own way, free of any other.”

    Taemes was still trying to hold back her laughter. “You are unfair to this poor man you have concocted in your mind,” she rolled her eyes. “And what a dark picture you paint of family life! It is a wonder than any ever wed or bear children! I can inform you, good-sister, that there is nothing more rewarding than tending to a baby's cries . . . and there is no suffering to be found in a marriage bed unless the man is particularly inept.”

    That only brought their laughter anew. “I shall have to take your word for it,” Haleth shook her head, calling herself back to order. “For now I will content myself with building a home for our people. This will all be your son's someday, and I wish to leave something great and worthy for Haldan to lead. My life shall be nothing more than building his legacy, for which I shall know nothing but contentment and pride.”

    In that, there was meaning and worth enough to be found. Haleth pushed aside thoughts of anything else, and grasped her determination to keep them there. Her resolve as as steel; unbending and unmovable.

    As if hearing his name, Haldan ran into the tack-room. The boy was almost eleven summers now, and he had seen a growth-spurt over the winter. He looked more and more like her brother with each passing day, Haleth could not help but think, forcing herself to remember Haldar with fondness over grief.

    “The horse-master said that the yard is dry enough for me to take my pony out!” Haldan exclaimed, his words jumbled with a youth's excitement. “May you take me, aunt Haleth?” he looked between his mother and her. “You said that you would show me how the elves ride without tack in the spring, and it is spring now.”

    “I would like nothing better,” Haleth was helpless to deny him. “While we are not able to feel the souls of the animals as the elves do, there is an unspoken language that we can still learn to speak. Master that, and you will have a faithful mount to carry you through anything.”

    Haldan fairly bounced on his feet at her words, looking from her to the stalls just beyond. “Can we start now?” he asked.

    “Yes,” she answered, looking around the tack-room for anything she had missed. “And yet – just a moment.” She turned and moved the rack of bridles over one last time. She forced her hands to her sides then, telling herself that everything was perfect. Even he would have nothing to say but to commend.

    She looked, and found that Taemes was watching her with a raised brow. Haleth then understood that all of her strong words had amounted to nothing. Her good-sister was not convinced.

    And so, Haleth set her jaw, and looked at her nephew. “Now then,” she said to the child, ignoring the other woman's stare. “Let's fetch your pony, and we will see what we shall see.”






    End Notes:

    Views on Women: While Haleth had a rough going of it, it is saying something that she made it to the role of Chieftess in the first place. For example - Elros' four times granddaughter was not allowed to become the ruling queen of Númenor because of her gender, and the kingship fell to her younger brother instead - it would take three more generations for that law to change. And that was during the Second Age, when Mankind was great in might, at that! During this ficlet, humanity is not even four-hundred years old. They are babies, still figuring things out. :p I always pictured the Haladin more Norse and Celtic like with their ways of thinking and living - almost like a forbearer of Rohan - and I tried to portray a glimpse of that here. So, you have no wilting wall-flowers amongst your women, but it is still a rare thing for a woman to lead absolutely - unless she proves herself worthy, as Haleth has here. :)

    Haldan: The son of Haleth's twin brother, Haldar. He would grow up to be the great-great-grandfather of Tuor, who would marry Idril of Gondolin and become the many times great-grandfather of Aragorn. (Really, the elf/mortal relationships are just hereditary in this family. [face_mischief] [face_love]) So, all of Haleth's hard work here does pay off. The Haladin became one of the Three Houses to make up Númenor, while those who remained on Middle-earth were unfortunately extinct by the Third Age, or mingled with the Dunlendings and Middle-Men.

    Caranthir/Eldalótë: Well, it is canon that Caranthir did not have a liking for Finarfin's children, but the precise reason was never mentioned. Yet, more often than not, there tends to be a woman involved at the base of such a feud. Or, at least, that is what I have decided to use here. ;)


    ~MJ @};-
     
    Anedon likes this.
  19. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    The Caranthir/Maglor scene: You can feel Maglor's concern and that his motive behind his advice is borne out of affection. [face_thinking]

    Woot, now I wanna read more about Nyrisse and Maglor [face_batting]

    I love Caranthir's reflections and the way he is pulled toward Haleth. Super use of the prompt altogether.

    =D=
     
  20. serendipityaey

    serendipityaey Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 24, 2004
    Reviewing "Heart"

    Anaire, I love her name. Like the garden you so perfectly describe, your lovely words are like a balm to my soul, and a joy to read. I love her thought on her bond with her soulmate, so simple and subtle, but ironclad and right, perfection. The holding each other is just so amazing, I love the emphasis on warmth and bond between them and I love the way he cradled her head, holds her.

    This: "The spirit is only so much itself as it belongs to others, and his has always found its home in you."

    So gorgeous!! Oh my gosh. I just love it. Thank you as always for sharing your beautiful words
     
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  21. Cael-Fenton

    Cael-Fenton Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2006
    I'm truly moved by what you've created here. I don't usually find noncanon romantic pairings very interesting, but you've so thoroughly succeeded at breathing life into such a real love story with utter solidness and genuine feeling in it.
     
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  22. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Miranda is the perfect, perfect one to carry on the professor's superlative legacy. [face_love] =D=
     
  23. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Nyota's Heart: Why thank-you! I am having a ridiculous amount of fun with these two, it is true. I love writing Maglor as the softie of his family, and it's true - his words here were born out of the truest affection! And Maglor and his wife! You read my mind, we need backstory now, and I am already plotting that out. :p [face_thinking] As always, thank-you so very much for reading. Your words never fail to make my day! [face_love] [:D]

    serendipityaey: Oh, that was an unexpected and most delightful surprise! I thank you for stopping in to talk about an older ficlet in this collection. 'Heart' is one of my favourites on here, and I am so glad that that struck a chord with you too! [face_love][:D]

    Cael-Fenton: Thank-you so very much! That is a true compliment to hear. While I personally love dealing with 'crack!pairings' in other fandoms, I never really saw the need to in Tolkien's world, simply because I have so many awesome characters and pairings to play with. But these two . . . I know I ranted about this with my first C/H ficlet, but they just fascinated me for the few pages dedicated to them. I loved her spirit and courage, and the 'harshest' of Fëanor's brood being awe-struck by a human woman just tickled me when I first read about it. So of course my muse had to read more into the relationship, especially to explain her odd and dangerous move when she relocated her content and prosperous people to the other side of Thingol's forests (somewhere a Fëanorian could not follow) in a journey that was heavy with regret and casualties. I had to wonder if she was running from something - or someone, if she did not want Caranthir to see her grow old and eventually pass on, no matter the bond between them, and my muse created this elaborate world as a result. In the end, Finrod was the one who helped her settle on Thingol's lands, and if he had a front row seat to Haleth and her tragedy, it would certainly explain why he would caution his own brother away from marrying a human woman only a few years later, and oh! A plot-bunny just bit, and I need to write for it now - you see how the thoughts just spiral out of control in this 'verse? It is crazy, I tell you! [face_laugh]:oops:[face_love] And then, when Caranthir was later mentioned in canon as being married, my brain just went hmmm, and here we are as a result. :p


    And, speaking of Caranthir/Haleth, my muse was still in a mood, so for the slightly belated NSWFF prompts 'Opaque, Translucent, Transparent' we have the next phase of their tale, with the prompts being used in a more figurative sense. (And, once again, they are 'MJ-sized ficlets. :p 8-}) As always, I hope that you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoyed writing them. [face_love]






    into the bittersweet and strange”

    CLXII. Opaque

    By the time Caranthir reached Estolad, spring had finally chased the winter from the earth. The wide grasslands were in full bloom; the tips of their waving blades spotted with seeds and small white flowers, feeding both the earth below and the birds soaring above the plains. The few small trees that dotted the land in hardy thickets bore pink and white buds between their newly unfurling leaves, filling the air with a floral fragrance whenever the wind swept forth to ruffle their branches.

    The air was still cool when he started his journey, yet the weather hesitantly warmed in a foregleam of summer by the time he arrived. He was as restless as the grey stallion who bore him, and he traveled faster on the winding roads than perhaps was wise due to the thrill of the season and anticipation of his destination. His horse did not seem to mind the pace set upon him, for the harsh weather had trapped him inside of his stall, much the same as Caranthir had been frustrated by his time stuck indoors. The grey now tossed his head and snorted whenever Caranthir tried to check their progress, chomping his teeth at the bit in his mouth and attempting to make his own wat whenever they slowed to a walk.

    At long last, after cresting one last large and rolling hill, Caranthir looked down to see the lands of the Atani stretched out before him. The human settlements of Estolad were nestled against the crook of the hills, built just out of the way of the strong wind that ever swept over the plains. He looked down, seeing a wall encompassing a small village of longhouses and various other structures with thatched roofs. Beyond the walls, farmsteads and small hamlets dotted the land, stretching south as far as the eye could see. Newly cultivated fields blanketed the land, adorning it with wheat and corn and rye. Beyond the farmer's fields, herds of sheep and cows and horses dotted the hills aplenty, and he nodded in satisfaction to see that their flocks were already twice that which the Haladin had left Thargelion with – even after the harsh winter taking its tolls on the new yearlings. On the eastern side of the settlement was the thin beginnings of a wooded land - which would pick up after the Celon river and form the great forests of Doriath beyond. To the far north, beyond the remaining Marachites and Bëorians, was a distant smearing of trees upon the horizon, visible only to his elven eyes. The human settlements stopped long before that, he knew, for those woods had a foul enchantment about them, and even the Men knew better than to venture into the haunted ways of Nan Elmoth.

    To the north-east of the Haladin's setup were the older buildings used by Bëor's people before he followed Finrod to the lands closer to Nargothrond, on the eastern side of Doriath. While many had left with their lord, many were those who stayed and merged together with those remaining of Marach's people. Due to Mankind's quick rate of supplementing their numbers, their populace was already teeming compared to the few hundred who had first settled the land.

    As if to reinforce his thinking so, he rode down from the crest of the hill to be immediately surrounded by activity on all sides. The Men were a busy folk, ever pointed with their hurrying to and fro on some business or another. Few looked his way, and those who did only blinked for a moment before moving on. He was not the first Elf to come and gawk over the sons of Men, he imagined with some amusement, and his kind were not unknown in these parts.

    As he entered the open gates of the Haladin's portion of Estolad, the more apparent it became that a celebration of some sorts was underway. It took him a moment, but he soon realized that the Men he passed were wearing their festive best, and many of the woman had flowers and ribbons plaited into their hair. Sounds of a harper and flutist reached his ears over the low pulse of a far off drum, even as he saw a group of strapping lads move barrels of wine and ale to the meadhall standing tall and prominent within the city ways. Smoke billowed from the thatched rooftop, and the smell of roasting venison and mutton was already rich and mouthwatering on the air. In the square of the encampment, a maypole had been erected, and children laughed and sang as they wound the ribbons together.

    “Your lady? Where may I find her?” he stopped and asked one of the young men returning from his task, and the boy nodded sharply over his shoulder in reply.

    “Behind you,” the youth said, and Caranthir turned quicker than he would have liked to in reply.

    Even though he had spent the whole of his journey roping his erstwhile feelings and hopeless attraction back underneath his control, his heart still did a strange sort of motion in his chest as he drank in sight of her. He had steeled himself as if for battle for meeting her once more, and he had thought to find mastery over his emotions. And yet, if he had fooled himself into thinking that the months apart had prepared him - or lessened his feelings with reasons of logic and common-sense - he was mistaken . . . highly mistaken indeed.

    Caring little for what his rational mind ordered, his eyes were not sure where to look first - at her smoky blue eyes, or the long tumble of her wheat-brown hair. Each freckle seemed to call for his attention as he took in the curious state of her attire – for she too was dressed in her best. Haleth wore a burnt orange band of cloth around her forehead, decorated with golden thread and small white flowers. Where he had seen her in a dress once before when she visited his people, she now wore one in the style of mankind – with a warm beige underdress and a kirtle with a pleated skirt overtop, dyed the same rich orange and copper of her headband. Her only ornamentation was the bronze broach at her chest, shaped in a three-folded knot, and the ring of mithril the Dwarves had given her. He blinked, surprised as he took her in. He felt acutely aware of his own appearance in that moment, dusty and stained as he was by the road. He fought the urge he had to shuffle on his feet – even when she bore the barest of smiles for his arrival.

    Haleth flushed when she caught his stare, he noticed – he noticed and forced himself not to think on. She cleared her throat, and immediately went to speak against the odd sort of weight that had settled on the air between them. “Word travels quickly here,” she said rather than greeting him. “You were not even past the gates before tongues were wagging as if to spread fire.”

    “I did not think an elf with staring eyes would be all that uncommon in Estolad,” he replied in kind, noticing then how one passing gaze pretended not to watch them, and then two. “At the very least, I am not Finrod with his wide and gaping gaze.”

    Haleth sighed, but there was fondness in the exhale, he was nearly sure.

    “Either way,” he said, gesturing behind him. “I have come bearing gifts for your new settlement. Alas, I was . . . impatient, and arrived here before the carts and mules. Yet, they should be only a day or two at most behind me.”

    He waited, expecting a jape for his lack of patience and restless ways. He did not expect for her to sigh again. For a moment, he thought that she looked weary. “You need not bring me anything more than you have already given me,” she said. He frowned to hear the tight undertone in her voice.

    “I need not, it is true,” he answered, his voice turning neutral out of wariness. “And yet, I want to. If such a thing unsettles you, you may tell yourself that they are for your people – supplies and things of the like. As a host, you are to suffer the whims of a guest, or have the Atani not yet grown to master such a base rule of etiquette?”

    He watched, and saw where she fought not to smile. Haleth forced the look away, once again darting a glance to those watching them. The eyes fixed on them grew, Caranthir noted, and he unconsciously took a step back from her in reply. Haleth too followed his eyes, and when she turned the white flowers in her hair fell forward to touch the bronzed skin of her neck. He held himself still against the sudden urge he had to step forward and touch where the bloom laid. Suddenly, he was glad for the extra space he had put between them.

    Caranthir let out a breath, and this time he knew that he had to explain his staring when Haleth looked back and caught him again. “You look . . . nice,” he said, his tongue tangling over the word in a horrible way. He fought the urge he had to scowl for his inadequate words.

    Haleth, however, did not seem to notice his ungraceful mouth, looking down and flushing as she did. She worried her hands in the fabric of her skirt as she would not in jerkin and vambrace. “I have a wedding to attend this eve,” she said in explanation for her garb.

    Caranthir felt a lance of something hot and horrified pierce through him at her words, which he tried in vain to keep from his face. Haleth only saw his eyes widening in surprise, and she shook her head quickly. She took a step forward, destroying the barrier he had unconsciously erected between them. “No, not my own,” she was quick to assure him. Her eyes flickered down for a moment, taken by some emotion that had nothing to do with him, he thought. “It is my sister's . . . or, my good-sister's, I mean to say.”

    And, for that, Caranthir was truly confused. “Your brother's widow?” he made sure that he understood. When she did not move to correct him, he furrowed his brow in puzzlement. “I do not understand, how does she marry again?”

    Haleth gave a frown to match his own, not understanding his reason for bewilderment. “Two unwed parties wish to pledge their troth together,” she said slowly. “I am unsure where the confusion lies.”

    “But she was married,” Caranthir repeated, as if that should have meant everything. He did not understand how it could not.

    “And now she is married no more,” Haleth returned. “Death sundered Taemes' vow to Haldar. She is free to wed again.”

    Caranthir stared at her for a moment, floored by the ease of which she spoke of casting the memory of one mate aside for another. Death . . . any parting was but a small bend in the road two souls chose to take together throughout eternity. Death meant nothing where two spirits were bound, and loved. He could not understand . . . and yet . . . she was human, and the Atani did not have the Quendi's luxury of time and bonds of the soul. He felt a sinking weight fill him, even though he told himself that feeling so was unfair to her. She was ignorant to the turn his heart had taken while he was away, and he had no reason to resent his emotions turning to frustration and hopelessness when that was all he should have let himself feel in the first place. She did not . . . she could not understand the forever he wanted from a partner, and now, to see the perplexed look grow on her face caused a black and hurt feeling to rise up to settle around his throat . . . one he could not properly explain to himself, let alone to her.

    “Does she love him?” his voice turned tight as he asked his question. Haleth's brow narrowed in warning, she understanding the signs of his temper well after their time spent together.

    “The man she marries is strong,” she avoided answering him outright. “He will give her son a father, and she will give his daughters a mother. He will work the land, and maybe even give her another child to raise. Love has nothing to do with it; Hathor is the husband she needs.”

    “But he is not the one she wants,” his last word came out cutting, and her own eyes darkened in reply.

    “She cannot have the one she wants,” Haleth snapped. “And neither can Hathor.”

    “So, she would turn her back on the memory of her husband and sell herself like a sack of grain?” he gave an incredulous snort of laughter. “I did not realize that you chose your mates the same as picking a head of cattle from a flock, looking for strength and breeding before ties of the heart. Forgive me for my ignorance.”

    Her eyes widened, as if shocked by his words, before she scowled in true anger. “Perhaps the Eldar are too old to remember the simple courtesies of a guest, but if you came here only to insult me and mine, then you can go back the way you came. I do not need your words here.”

    Caranthir gave a stiff bow, mocking in shape. The black feeling inside of him grew, as toxic and choking as miasma. This time, he did not try to force it away. “I thank-you, my lady, for so clearly reminding me of our differences. It was a needed revelation.”

    He still had the reins of his horse in hand. He had not even made it to the stables before they started quarreling, he thought with a sour flash of annoyance. Not looking at her, he swung himself back into the saddle again. Ignoring both her and the eyes of everyone in the square who had stopped to stare at them outright, he turned his back and rode out through the gates again.

    . . . of course, he did not make it far. He could not, when to turn back for the Blue Mountains was to stretch the cord in his heart until snapping - for which he was not nearly ready. Instead he wandered, going only as far as the wooded shade of trees that started to appear west of the city walls. The feasting from beyond had spilled out from the confines of the meadhall, and many of the smallfolk were dancing and rejoicing in a clearing in the trees where there was room enough to do so. He listened to the cheering and the shouts of well wishes for the bride and groom, and felt his brow darken for the loveless marriage that was celebrated that day.

    As night fell, he finally stopped his horse by a creek that parted the trees and unsaddled the tired animal. He let the stallion graze while he laid down on the cool rocks by the bubbling water, staring up at the stars peeking down from the trees as he prepared himself for night, until -

    “I understand that I have offered you insult, and yet, I am not sure how I have done so.”

    Caranthir looked up, seeing where Haleth had come from the direction of the celebration just beyond. He narrowed his eyes, but she only raised one of her own in reply. “Come now,” she brushed his ill mood aside as if he was nothing more than a sulking child. “If you did not wish to make amends with me, you would not have settled so close for the night.”

    The moonlight dappling down through the trees slicked over her in rippling patterns as she came closer to him. To his eyes, she was a creature more elemental than fey as she walked towards him, her step falling in time with the song of the creek rather than the harper's reel just beyond. He had to fight the tightening in his chest as she took a seat on the stone next to him, ever easy as she was in the face of his darker emotions. She looked down at her hands as she waited for him to speak, and her hair fell forward over her shoulder in a dark wave with the motion. He stared, and then blinked.

    When he finally moved to sit upright, a small, pleased smile appeared on her face – nearly triumphant in shape. “Now,” she smoothed her skirts over her knees in a decided manner. “Where was such an offense in my words taken?”

    “It was not anything you said, per say,” he said, for truly, it was not. “Rather, this subject is an old wound to my family; an ancient source of many pains, and I took that out on you. For that, I am sorry.” He had touched on the marriage of Finwë and Indis before, and knew that she would think of that now.

    Haleth was quiet for a moment, thoughtful, even. “I take it that your kind does not marry twice? I did not realize how absolute that was when you told your story before.”

    “No, we do not marry twice . . .” he shook his head, wondering how best to phrase what he wanted to say. “Marriage as we know it is more than simply living together, loving each other . . . Marriage is existing completely through another person. It is a bond of souls in the most literal of senses.”

    “That sounds terribly romantic,” Haleth said dryly, her eyes flickering as she remembered what he had told her about the more fey ways of his people - the way he could feel shadows of his brothers in the deepest part of his soul, no matter the distance parting them. In life, Fëanor had been such an ember at the core of his spirit, and even now there was a coolness of ashes where his presence still remained. “And yet," she continued carefully, "while I understand why you would not separate from such a tie in life . . . would death not sunder that bond?”

    Caranthir shook his head. “No . . . you see, a spouse and a lover are one and the same to my people. You cannot have one without resulting in the other, for the act that merges bodies also fuses together souls. Your soul binds itself to a marriage mate once, and only once. Even if the body may die, the soul never dies, and that bond would still remain between spirits, no matter their sundering . . . If my wife would ever leave this world before me, I would wait to join her again – either for finding her with my own death, or by waiting for her to walk alive from Námo's keeping with her rebirth. Or, so it is for the Elves, for we are tied to the spirit of Arda in a way the sons of Men are not.”

    Haleth looked down at his words. Her eyes were dark in the night, and for a moment they peered into a thought far beyond him. She looked sad, he realized after a moment; and his fëa blinked with awareness against his skin for the thought. His spirit urged him to reach out and touch her hand, her shoulder; to fix whatever ailed her. It hurt to sit so close to her, while still being so far away in any way that truly mattered. He made a fist of his hands so as to force them into obedience, trying to keep the light of his spirit beneath his skin where it belonged. When speaking, he had not once spoke in generalities. He knew that he spoke of himself, and the slight, stupid stirring of hope he had within him, as if vowing . . .

    Finally, Haleth looked up, some decision shining from her eyes. She seemed harder to his gaze, more resolute, and he had a queer moment of missing her, even when she sat close enough to touch.

    “Your ways sound beautiful,” she finally said a moment later. “While we do not have fey bonds such as you, there are many who feel the same way amongst Men. Lovers are supposed to only be found within the parameters of marriage, but there are those who do not hold fast to that rule – both before and after their vows are said. You may even dishonor your mate by finding a lover outside of marriage, in the sad way of some affairs. And yet, there are some who, upon the death of a spouse, will never marry again out of love for their lost one. We are not so very different in that regard.” Again, she looked thoughtful. She absently fiddled with a tie on her dress. “And yet, we know not what awaits us beyond death. We only know that the One calls it a Gift, and yet, we are left to guess as to its shape. As such, we live as well as we can in the time we have, and if a second love helps another with that living . . . well, I am not one who can judge that. Yet . . . while knowing another down to the soul is something I cannot quite understand, I can imagine one such bond being enough to last a lifetime . . . I see what it is that you say.”

    Caranthir forced a smile to his face, but the expression was pained. “I do not mean to say that our ways are without flaws, mind you – as you have seen with Finwë's tale. There are less conventional bonds that our Laws do not cover with traditional marriage – but they are no less whole for their going unspoken amongst our people. Unfortunately, there can be unequal matches formed between partners whose souls do not truly match. There are couples of centuries who later live apart for that mistake, for their bond can never truly be destroyed, no matter the lack of emotional fulfillment that comes with the match. Then, there are bonds forged in the heat of passion, or bonds where the soul of one partner alters while the other stays resolute . . . my own parents were estranged long before we swore our Oath, and yet . . . even then, my father grieved Nerdanel's name when he thought that none of us could see . . . I have to imagine that she felt much the same, even with the shame we have since brought to her name.”

    He swallowed, speaking of something he long left in silence – even within his most private of thoughts. Now his words were as a wound open and bleeding before him.

    In the clearing beyond, the piper's reel skipped and turned. The flutes sang out a merry trill, and he had to blink against the discordant backdrop the music provided for their speaking. After a moment, seeing the effect his memories had on him, Haleth reached over and hesitantly touched the back of his hand. Where she could not feel his spirit, she still knew him well enough to tell of the weight of his memories from his countenance alone. Her skin was even darker against the pale cast of his own skin in the starlight. Her hands were small, he could not help but think, even when the calluses thickening her fingertips only spoke of strength. If he took her hand in his own, his grasp would swallow hers.

    Just as gently, he brought his opposite hand to rest over the back of hers. She held her breath at the contact, but she did not move away from him. Her skin was soft and cool, and a tremor went through his body for touching her, actually touching her, and -

    Caranthir inhaled, and let his breath out slow. His lungs ached in his chest, and yet, the hurt was one he welcomed. Beyond them, the music slowed and spun, taking on a gentle rhythm made for couples. He imagined the new bride and groom walking hand in hand - both imagining the hands of others, perhaps, and something inside of his tightened. His fëa itched against his skin like something living, and while he would not let himself give into that call, he could -

    “Would you like to dance?” the words tumbled out of his mouth before he could think to draw them back in.

    Haleth blinked in surprise. It was a look he enjoyed seeing on her, he admitted to himself - almost as anticipated as it was for when he could stir her into frustration and fond annoyance. “We should not,” she answered, glancing back to the clearing and her own folk within. “They saw me leave, and tongues will -”

    “ - already wag,” Caranthir finished for her. He let a true smile touch his mouth, sharp in shape. “You may as well earn a reason for their doing so.”

    Haleth bit her lip, clearly hesitating as she watched him rise. Yet, when he reached down for her, she placed her hand firmly within his own. She let him draw her to her feet. In moments like these, he thought with a bittersweet sort of wonder, he could find enough to sustain his heart on. He told himself that he could content himself on his, and only this. For sadly, he knew that he had to.

    Beyond them, the reel turned, and Haleth let him draw her close. For that moment, he let himself think on that and nothing else.



    .
    .

    CLXIII. Translucent

    There were times when he forgot the simple joy to be held for the untarnished curiosity and wonder of a child. Caranthir had not had an opportunity to guide a young mind since Celebrimbor was a youth during their last days in Aman, and now, children amongst the Noldor in Exile were few and far between. There were certainly none to be found at Lake Helevorn, and Haldan's eager chattering on the forest trail drew his attention with more warmth and fondness than he would ever admit to.

    Thankfully, the child seemed to be equally fascinated by him - and everything elvish that he represented. In the end, it had not taken much coaxing on the boy's part to convince his mother to let him accompany Haleth and him on their hunt, not with his face twisted into such a look of anticipation and his words eager and jumbled with joy from his mouth. Even so, Taemes wore a sharp, frank stare while Haldan chattered at her, her eyes never leaving his face as she demanded without words that he not wound her child's obvious awe, and watch over him where the land turned wild away from their tidy farmsteads and orderly fields. Caranthir would deny to any who asked that the human woman made him stand just that much straighter underneath her gaze – as if he was once again a child beneath Nerdanel's stare. Even so, Taemes thanked him when one of his gifts for Estolad was a training bow of Sindarin make for her son. Though he had to endure a few odd stares when commissioning the weapon, it was worth it for the simple happiness and appreciation Haldan bore for the gift. The mortal boy treated the weapon with a careful reverence, practicing in every moment he could steal since receiving the gift almost a month ago. Now he was ready to try out what he had learned with an application more real than targets painted upon a sandbag.

    Nearly a week later, they walked through the young forest that grew just to the west of Estolad – which, upon crossing the river Celon would grow to form the great forests of Doriath. Here there was game aplenty to be found amongst the young birch trees and thick fens carpeting the forest floor. The river flowed quick and shallow through the wood, tumbling over rocks and stone; flickering and dancing in the dappled sunlight from above. The sound of the water muted their step, turning them as shadows as they tracked their quarry in the woods. Earlier, Haldan had frightened off a young buck with his breaking a twig underfoot, and they had not found any large game since then. That did not matter too much – in some ways, a rabbit was more challenging to fell than a deer, and Haldan had already came close to finding his first kill on two separate instances. Even if he came away from their hunt with nothing to show for his efforts, he had gained in experience and learning, and Caranthir was pleased with his progress.

    They now knelt behind a shield of grey rocks, watching where a fat hare investigated the sprouts of clover and milkweed growing on the riverbank. Haldan had a flaw in his follow-through that most young archers had to train themselves to overcome, and he now watched to see how a proper draw should be completed. Caranthir had his bow strung, and was carefully watching the hare, waiting for his moment.

    Beside Haldan, Haleth watched him too, her own bow in hand with an arrow nocked and ready. Here in the peace of the forest, a line of tension seemed to disappear from the steel that coated her spine. In Estolad, her smiles were the slightest bit shielded; her words the slightest bit guarded with her constantly having to look side to side for the eyes that were ever watching her. Here in the wood, with no one to look and call out right or wrong, she smiled more easily. She exuded confidence and contentment, and he enjoyed the return of her sharp insights and wry humor. He kept on finding reasons to extent their trip away from the main settlements of Estolad, covetous as he was of the time he had where she was merely herself, and not Haleth, Chieftess of the Haladin.

    Yet, for now, he glanced to the side to make sure that Haldan was paying attention. Sure enough, the boy was all wide and unblinking brown eyes, eager as he was for him to take his shot. Haleth too watched him – though, with a hint of challenge and friendly competition that was at odds with Haldan's simple admiration. Caranthir felt himself rise to her challenge as he had never even strove to win his father's good opinion in life. He exhaled, telling himself to watch the hare, and not her, elsewise . . .

    Exaggerating his motions for Haldan's benefit, he took his aim. Haldan nodded, as if encouraging him, and he allowed himself one last glance at Haleth. In the green forest light, her look was soft with a moment of pride and appreciation. The sunlight shining down through the leaves flickered over her face, catching in her eyes and painting golden streaks in her hair, and -

    Most embarrassingly, in a way he never would have been able to live down if any of his brothers had seen, he missed the hare when the animal caught their scent and turned to run. He flushed red in reply to his error, and yet, even as he drew another arrow to fix his mistake, Haleth was already standing and firing her own weapon in a smooth, practiced motion. Her hit was clean, and Haldan gave a small sound of excitement in reply to her felling the animal.

    “You see?” Haleth turned to her nephew. “Mind your follow-through.” She turned and raised a brow at him, and he felt his blush deepen. “Are you sure that you do not need me to take over the child's teaching, Master-elf? That was an easy shot to make.”

    Caranthir did not think that she would welcome hearing what the sunlight did to her eyes, and so, he settled for raising a haughty brow to match her own. “Is not minding the children a woman's task?” he said when Haldan ran off to investigate their kill. “If you see the need to fulfill that duty, then by all means, I shall not stop you.”

    Haleth rolled her eyes as she knelt down to pick up her pack and the string of rabbits they had already caught for that night's supper. “Then, by all means, attend to a man's role, and help me clean these. The sun sets quicker in the forest, and I wish to make use of the light.”

    The fondness in her glance helped chase the red from his face, and finally, he let himself smile at his own mistake. He next followed her to the river as Haldan aimed at imaginary targets in the wood, firing and retrieving his arrows as he went. They could hear his exclamations of triumph and dismay given whenever he hit, or missed, a point only he knew in his mind.

    Haleth watched her nephew for a moment, and then she took her hunting knife from her belt and set about cleaning their kill for that night's dinner. He took his own knife out, and went to help her. The river bubbled on happily before them, singing to the sun as she started to drop from her high cradle in the sky. The green light started to turn gold and orange as the sun turned, and the light danced on the white waters like a flame. Caranthir looked across the water, feeling the weight of watchful eyes in the older trees on the opposite bank of the Celon. For a moment he stared with hard eyes, letting his look be noticed, and then he turned back to his task.

    Though Haleth had not his eyesight or fey senses, she had a hunter's premonition, and she knew the feel of her home well enough to know when another shared the land with her. She narrowed her own gaze across the river.

    “We are being watched,” she announced simply. “The air beyond the river is heavy, we have come to notice. Whenever we have tried to cross the river, our boatmen have found themselves back where they began with no memory of the journey that returned them there.” She glanced to him, a question in her eyes.

    “It is the Girdle of Melian you feel,” Caranthir explained, “The spells across the river are a powerful enchantment, even by the reckoning of my people.”

    “Melian?” Haleth asked curiously at the name. “Who is she?”

    “Melian,” he answered, “Is the Maia Queen of Doriath, unmatched both in wisdom and might.”

    Haleth frowned as she processed what he said. “Doriath is an elven realm, though,” she put together his stories with what she already knew. “Then how is a Maia . . .”

    He gave a sharp look of amusement in reply to her words, rare as it was to find an audience who did not already know the more fey tale of Doriath's beginning. “Though divine and of the West, Melian loved to walk the star-lit ways of Middle-earth before the rise of the Sun and Moon. When she found the Eldar, heading West at the Valar's call, she was fascinated by the Firstborn. There she met Thingol – then called Elwë – in the forest of Nan Elmoth, which still stands just to the north of here. She was instantly besotted, no matter the differences between them, and she entrapped him in a spell that lasted centuries. They stood still while the stars wheeled and the trees grew around them, until she was at last commanded by the Valar to let him go. She did so with grief in her heart, and yet, even with the spell's end, she was still entranced with him - and he with her. So, she diminished her spirit to live as one lesser. Melian took on a form of flesh and stayed by Thingol's side as his wife and Queen. It is her power you feel, protecting the forests they rule together.”

    Haleth listened carefully to his tale, something flickering in her gaze as he spoke. Perhaps she thought of unequal bonds between those of different fates – the same as he did. And yet, that was only he and his hope thinking so, as foolishly as he still let himself yearn.

    “And none may cross this boundary but for elf-kind?” Haleth asked, speaking of the part of the tale that deigned to her people.

    “And only those approved by Thingol, at that,” Caranthir answered. “When your people awakened, Thingol foresaw a son of Men doing him a great harm one day. As a result, he allows none of the Atani to pass through what is his.”

    Haleth snorted. “The superstitions of the Eldar,” she shook her head as she cut through a particularly tough area of skin on the hare.

    “The foresight of the Eldar, I believe you meant to say,” he corrected in amusement - even when he silently agreed with her. “And yet, no matter his precaution, prophesy will find a way to come true, as it often does.” He shrugged. “Sometimes, our moving to change our fates only goes to ensure them all the more so.”

    She set her mouth thoughtfully, still looking across the river. “And you? Are you welcome beneath the Maia-queen's spell?”

    Ah.

    “Well,” Caranthir started awkwardly, unsure of how to phrase the truth. “You see . . . of old, Thingol was the elder brother of Olwë. Olwë continued to lead a portion of the Sindar across the sea when his brother was taken by Melian, and he settled his Teleri in Alqualondë, where he reigned as their King. Then, we . . .”

    “Oh,” Haleth said in understanding. She darted a glance to him – neither condemning or sympathetic, for which he was grateful. “Thingol is the king who forbade the speaking of your tongue, then?”

    “Yes,” Caranthir inclined his head. “Great is Thingol's pride, and while understandable in some ways, in others . . . he does this world a wound by staying safe in his forests and refusing to set his might against the threat of Morgoth in the north. It is easy to do nothing with the spells of a Maia protecting you, but the rest of Middle-earth does not have that luxury.”

    Beyond them, the eyes watching from the trees seemed to narrow, as if hearing their words. Caranthir forced himself to stillness, understanding how the hare from earlier must have felt before the arrow struck. For his sins with the Kinslaying at Alqualondë, his own life would be forfeit with crossing the river. Yet, he reminded himself, Thingol's rule did not extend to Estolad beyond. He forced himself not to flinch and turn away, but to calmly complete his task as if uncaring of the unkind eyes across the river. Haleth seemed to pick up on what he saw in the trees beyond – Thingol's March-wardens with bows at the ready, and when Haldan splashed into the river to fetch one of his stray arrows she called, “Leave it!” to the child. “Do not go into the water for anything, no matter what.”

    Haldan quickly darted back to the rocky bank with her saying so, understanding the seriousness in her voice and trusting her to know best. “I will aim the other way,” he assured his aunt, and Haleth nodded, pleased.

    She did not say anything more about the spells of Doriath or the odd romance binding together the celestial spirit of a Maia with the earthy soul of an Elf, no matter how kingly. Instead, she went about completing her task, even humming underneath her breath as if uncaring of their observers. Even so, she darted her gaze across the river every few minutes, her eyes dark as she searched the trees beyond. Caranthir wondered if she realized how she grasped the knife in her hand; how she turned her body as if to shield him, even when he needed her protection not. It was endearing, the protection this mortal girl thought she could provide against Thingol's own, and yet, he could find no humor within him for her doing so. Instead, something soft and warm seemed to fill him in reply to her actions, and he did not immediately move to turn it away.

    When moving for the next rabbit, he paused and looked at her in the dimming light. The sun had sank while they spoke, and now its light was red and dancing as it touched the river with gold and turned the highlights in her hair aflame. He meant to look away, but he found that he could do nothing but stare. A distant part of him thought that he could understand why Thingol had been unable to break away from Melian's spell – unwilling as he was to part from such a vision for anything. Captive he was, but more than willing was he to be so.

    Distantly, Caranthir even thought of his own parents. His father had drawn a few curious eyes in Aman for his choice of bride - for Fëanor was even acknowledged by the Valar as being the most beautiful of their kind, and while none of the Elves of Aman were unappealing to look on, Nerdanel had been plain when compared to many of the ethereal faces around her. Rather than the willowly, slim builds of many of Finwë's noblewomen, Nerdanel was tall – nearly staring eye to eye with his father, who towered over all but Finwë himself. Her bones were thick and her form was strong and voluptuously curved – a body gifted to help her withstand the labors of her art and the later trials of bearing and raising her seven children. Her features were wide, her green eyes slightly too large and her mouth too wide to fit her face – more for her to smile with, Fëanor ever brushed her concerns away when she critiqued herself, and always would that same smile grow for him saying so. Her hair had been her crowning glory, as red and wild as fire - a rare colour found only amongst her father's house in Aman. Even so, she normally kept her hair bound simply and unadorned so as to keep it out of her way while she went about her sculpting. She wore practical aprons over leather tunics and soft leggings in the style of a man and cared not for anyone who commented on her doing so - and his father had loved her all the more so for it. Back when he struggled through his feelings for Eldalótë, Caranthir had asked his father what drew him to Nerdanel. In a moment that would later turn rare for his sire, Fëanor's look had softened as he simply answered that Nerdanel was like a flame to his eyes. His perception of her beauty constantly flickered, and he never saw the same point to marvel over twice. He always found something new to enchant him - no matter the centuries they spent together. He could not capture her with his arts, for her likeness would never be done justice in hard stone and lines of ink upon a paper. Yet, he enjoyed the challenge.

    Once, Caranthir thought himself to understand his father's words. Truly he did. And yet, now . . .

    When he first met Haleth, he had thought her little more than common in appearance, especially when viewed through he eyes of the Eldar. Even those amongst Mankind would hesitate to call her a beauty, and she little helped herself with her practical braids and her mannish clothes. Nothing about her warranted looking twice, first he had thought, and yet . . . now, the more he came to know her, the more he found it hard to look away. The features that once seemed unflattering drew his every look, and her likeness waited behind his closed eyes whenever he was away from her. Her face was defined by full cheekbones and a strong, square jaw. Her eyes were heavily lidded underneath her arched brow, but the smoky blue colour of her gaze drew him more than the shape of her eyes – darkening as they would near to black, depending on her mood and the light. The bridge of her nose was narrow, the point rounded, and yet, its shape fit her. More than any of her features, he found himself staring at the freckles that dusted her tan skin – markings that normally left Men with adulthood, he had since come to learn, but had lingered with her. The small marks were a curiosity - endearing, he could not help but think, foreign as they were to Elvish skin. Her mouth was wide and full - too full to fit her face, perhaps, but he found himself echoing Fëanor with his thoughts - more to smile with – when she did smile, that was. He was starting to know as much pride when he inspired her smiles as he did when stroking her ire – a now familiar and much anticipated pastime as it was.

    Beautiful, he could not help but think. Where each feature could be called unremarkable on their own, together they were her, and he found that he could not look away as the red light danced over her skin as if to point out new points of interest for his eyes to uncover and savor.

    She looked over at Haldan again, but caught his stare as she turned back to her work. Haleth raised a brow, and he saw a flicker of self-consciousness touch her gaze. She bit her lip, a rare outward sign of her discomfort, before asking, “Is something amiss?” in a voice that was more hesitation than inquiry.

    Caranthir wanted to tell her of the revelation in his thoughts, but his tongue was, as ever, a leaden weight in his mouth. He continued to stare, and instead of one of the more poetic, inspired things that he could think to say, all he could awkwardly stammer out was: “You are beautiful.”

    While most of his experiences with women could be called bungling in the truest sense of the word, he knew enough to know that such compliments were supposed to draw a blush and perhaps a word of flattered acknowledgment in reply. Haleth, however, was not most woman. And yet, even he did not expect the shadow that fell over her eyes at his words. She looked hurt, he could not help but think, bewildered as he was by the emotion he saw bloom on her face. Her gaze then hardened into a more familiar look of anger, and that was all the warning he had before lifted her hand and struck him sharply across the cheek.

    While the blow itself did not particularly sting, her expression afterward did. She looked as a wounded animal trying to hide its weakness, and that was the only glance he was allowed as she turned from him and stood. She gathered the skinned meat and her hunting knife and then walked to a small clearing in the trees to set up their camp for the night. She pointedly kept her back to him – warning him not to come after her. Caranthir stared, bewildered as to how he had given offense and frustrated by the reaction he had received. Only the flash of hurt he remembered in her gaze helped curb his temper – bruised as his ego now was.

    He glared across the river, where he was sure that Thingol's March-warden's were laughing at him. After a long moment, he sighed and gathered his own things to aid her in preparing for the night. The dinner to follow was a quiet, terse affair - Haldan picked up on the strain between them and wisely said nothing to break the silence. Later, when dinner was done and Haldan fell into a deep, contented sleep from the exercise of the day, Haleth finished clearing their things away and stared into the dwindling fire with a contemplative stare. She did not slip into her bedroll right away, which Caranthir took to mean that she wished to speak with him.

    At long last, he opened his mouth to apologize, when Haleth spoke before he could, saying, “I am sorry that I struck you. It was unfair of me to treat you so.”

    Once more he went to speak, but she continued. Her voice was rushed, as if she was hurrying to say something unpleasant quickly, so that she would not have to hold the words in her mouth longer than was necessary. “Yet, it was unkind of you to tease me so. Not about that,” she stopped and gathered her words. “You are a prince of the Eldar, and you . . . you are beautiful,” she flushed as she waved a vague hand to encompass all of him. Yet, any pleasure he may have known for her approving of his appearance was quelled by her inability to meet his gaze – something which she had never shied away from, not even at the first. “You are beautiful, and I . . . I know what I am . . . I know what I am, and I have accepted that. I do not need you to remind me in such a way.”

    She thought him to be jesting, he then understood with a pang. She did not think it possible for his words to be true, and so, she automatically assumed a cruelty on his part. He felt a moment of anger, wondering whose prior words had set such a bruise, before pushing that thought away, not wanting her to see his darker emotions when she at last met his eyes.

    Softly, more gently than he thought himself capable of being, he reached over to tilt her chin, turning her to look at him. Even the slightest of touches brought a thrill to his spirit. Her skin was cool from the night air, even with the summer settling upon them, and he let his thumb move to the right in the barest of caresses. He met her eyes, and found them red, as if she were blinking back tears. The wound he himself felt in reply to her hurt settled in deeper.

    “Then, you cannot see what I see,” he said. His words were soft, pitched lower than he intended, given on hardly more than a whisper. He watched as her eyes flickered – bewildered and lost as she processed his words. But there was a question therein as she searched his gaze for any sign of falsehood. He knew that she would find none, and watched her blush as understanding and belief asserted themselves in her mind. The smallest of smiles touched her mouth - a more expected reaction to a compliment, he let himself think with a ghosting of humor - before she leaned into the touch of his hand.

    It was the smallest of motions, and yet, hope bloomed warm and soaring within him. He tried to warn himself that this was dangerous – both for her heart and his. Yet, he could not stop himself from moving his hand to touch the strong shape of her jaw and the full curve of her cheek. He let his thumb rest on one of the more prominent of her freckles, and felt a jolt pass through him for the caress. His fëa was very close to the surface of his skin in that moment, all but pulsing within the shell of his body. Her cool skin flushed warm underneath his touch, so very warm, and for a moment he . . .

    “Your hands are warm,” she whispered, uncannily echoing his thoughts. Her voice was low, forming a deep cadence that he had yet to hear from her. His fëa spiked in awareness for it. “Are they always like this?”

    “I have never noticed,” his voice was warm to match her own. Her eyes flickered at the sound, and she took in a deep breath before leaning back from him. There was a flash of steel in her eyes – determination, he could not help but think, and upon seeing so, he felt his own face flush for the intimacy he had placed upon her.

    He let out a deep breath, and let the moment go.

    “It will be a long day tomorrow. We should get some rest,” Haleth looked over at Haldan, still deeply sleeping, and her look softened once more.

    “I had forgotten the unending energy of youth,” Caranthir commented wryly, following her eyes with his own gaze.

    The embers were few and fading in the fire before them, and upon seeing so, she moved to her bedroll, ready for the night. He let her go in silence, feeling her eyes on him even as he did so. She continued to look for him for a long time after, and he let her stare.

    Finally, she smiled once, sadly, before she turned over, giving in to the pull of the night. This close to her, Caranthir knew that he would not find sleep, and instead stayed awake and contemplative until the morning came.



    .
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    CLXIV. Transparent

    The summer stretched on, and the last weeks before the harvest were as hot and humid as the winter had been cold and fierce.

    While good for the fields, the damp heat of the day only resulted in thin tempers when Haleth's council met in the late afternoon. For both her relative youth and her inexperience with leading, Haleth kept a circle of advisers - both peers her own age and the wise older men of her people. Caranthir was allowed to sit in on those meetings so long as he kept silent unless directly asked a question by those gathered. He did not feel slighted by the arrangement; rather, he understood it, and he was eager to provide what aid he could in any form. As his time amongst the Haladin stretched, his opinion was sought more and more - only, never in a way that would directly result in influencing the leading of their people, he noticed with some bemusement. As always, the unbending desire of the Haladin to never yield to any other was fierce indeed.

    On that day, the somewhat strained tempers ever found with such an interchange of opinions were at a boiling point for both the heat of the day and the tempestuous nature of the feud at hand. There were those of Marach's ilk who were trying to claim a good deal of the Haladin's northernmost fields as land of their own. Yet, the deeds they presented were those set only in the most vaguest of senses, with spoken claims granting them rights to the land more often than not. Most suspiciously, they also waited to claim the fields until the end of the summer, when the harvest was close at hand – not moving to voice their ownership until it was apparent how well the corn and wheat grew where the Haladin had struggled to work the land to fruitfulness.

    Only three summers prior, Malach Marach's son had led a great portion of the Third House to dwell in the north, on Fingolfin's lands, as both he and his daughter were close in friendship and counted amongst the Wise by the Elves. The man who lead the Marachites remaining in Estolad was a hard, ambitious man who sought to live up to the legend of his predecessor's name - and, at times, Mundor would test the boundaries with his new neighbors just for the sake of seeing how far they would go before snapping. Haleth had stood tall with the other chieftain thus far, but there were those on her council who whispered that if Haleth had been a man, then Mundor's people would not have dared to claim the fields in the first place. Some of the Marachites had attempted to harvest 'their' fields by force, and that had led to a minor crossing of blows between the opposing farmers before men with sense had broken the feud. It was this dispute they attempted to reason on that day.

    It was an argument that went in circles. The Marachites were a fierce, warring people, and the Haladin were still recovering from the last time they crossed swords with another – and Haleth would not fight her fellow Men, not after they had crossed the mountains just to avoid such dark infighting amongst their people. Even still, many on her council trusted her less and less to simply speak with Mundor, as that had proved ineffective before. As time dragged on, words turned crosser, and tempers turned hot as egos were bruised and words were spoken unthinkingly in anger. Caranthir sat in silence, his jaw clenching and his offended sense of justice smarting as first one insult was heaped on her shoulders and shrugged aside, and another passive aggressive remark given, and another, until -

    He knew that it was not his place to speak in her defense, and yet, speak he still did – speak hotly, as if scolding a group of unruly elflings – and he knew his error in saying so as soon as the words fled his mouth. The council turned unusually quiet as a dozen and a half sly eyes turned to Haleth to see how she would allow her guest to step into her affairs and fight her battles for her. He knew he had erred, but he did not judge his words to be in the wrong. He kept his expression hard and fierce, even as Haleth called the meeting to an end until tempers could cool. She then coldly stalked from the longhouse without looking behind - sure that he would follow.

    His own temper was at a boiling point, both for the eyes who followed them, and the turn of her anger to him. His spirit was flashing hotly, rising to his skin in a wave of orange and red light. It flickered from his hröa in wispy waves, no matter how he tried to keep it inside. Worse than all was the disrespect they paid her; the insolence. He had watched her while dwelling in Estolad, and he could honestly say that she was a good leader - who cared for her people and did her best to see them prosper in every way. He could think of no man in her circle of advisers who could do any better, and to hear scorn and slurs for her Eru-given gender was something he could not understand. He would dare these men to tell Artanis that she was any less a force for her femininity. Idril any less, Aredhel any less - even Melian or Varda herself. No, in some ways, they were only more for it.

    A horrible, intoxicating voice, deep inside of him (the same one that had moved him to swear his Oath, that muttered that Fëanor would look and know pride if only -) whispered that if she was his, bonded at the spirit, then such an insult would have been his to put to right in every way. Even now, his soul shimmered in outrage, for any slight to her was a slight to him, and it was nature's command that he fix and aid whatever ailed her. The spirit did not care about the petty politics of men; it only saw that she struggled - unfairly so - and demanded that he do something to heal the wound, even as it was inflicted.

    And . . . the truth of the matter was that he had stayed too long. He should have returned to Lake Helevorn weeks – months – ago. Yet, he had thought himself strong enough to content himself with her comradeship – her friendship, even. Instead, rather than settling his attraction into a more practical – a more realistic - shape, the months spent with her only intensified that which he had long fought to ignore. His soul was strained and aching inside of his flesh, caring not of the differences between them, caring not of the sundering between their very kinds, and it hurt to stand so close to her without breathing a word of what was bubbling up, deep inside of him. He should have departed and worked on his own treacherous heart from afar, but he was ever a glutton for self-inflicted pain, and he had instead lingered . . . lingered for much too long.

    Now his fëa was snapping and consuming that which was rational and centuries-wise about him. He knew that he should not have followed her straight away. He should have found peace and privacy first, and worked his spirit down from the fey shape it was taking, but he did not. Instead, he followed hotly on her heels to answer the angry words he could already see forming in her eyes.

    They did not make it far. Haleth did not turn for her dwelling, or even his guest's accommodations. Instead, she darted inside of an out-building that served as a store-house for parts to repair farming equipment, and he closed the creaking wood door behind them with as much of a thud as he could manage.

    Haleth rounded on him, sparing no time to ease into her words as she said, “You are here in friendship, and in no manner do you stand by my side as a lord! I thought that I had made that clear, time and time again.” Her words were low and harsh – mindful of those who were no doubt lingering just beyond, hoping to overhear.

    “Forgive me,” his words were hissed to match, “but he was being impudent, and I could not -”

    “ - you did not trust me to handle my battles myself?” Haleth interrupted incredulously, her words breaking from their low tone with her feeling.

    “That is not what I said, and you know that is not how I think of you,” Caranthir returned, fighting the urge he had to run his hand through his hair in frustration. “Yet, for all of your knowing, you still have a child's wisdoms when compared -”

    “ - just because I do not have centuries to my name, does not mean that I cannot handle my own people in my own way,” Haleth all but spat the words, her eyes flashing a fire to match that which he could feel roll underneath his skin, undulating in waves like the ocean. He fought the urge he had to close his eyes and take a deep breath; to pinch the bridge of his nose and force himself to calm.

    “That is not what I meant,” there was more frustration in his voice than anger. He tried to surreptitiously take a deep breath, but it did not work. His lungs were too tight in his chest, his heart racing, and -

    “Really?” her tone was mocking. “Yet, is that not what you said, or did this child hear you wrong?”

    - his fëa all but shrieked against the shell of his body, overwhelming and molten in response to her words. She does not understand. She is mortal, and an elven woman would have long backed away, he tried to tell himself. Yet, he did not have the words within him to explain the thin shreds of his control. Not now. He stalked closer to her, moving more like the spirit of nature he truly was, rather than the veneer of humanity he normally forced himself to wear - but it did little to cow her. She put her chin up to his greater height and power of form, and her eyes flashed as if daring him closer.

    “You do not scare me,” she proclaimed boldly, her voice still hot. “You have not ever intimidated -”

    He shoved her back those final two steps, pushing her until her back hit the wall with a dull thud. His hands came to rest flat against the wooden panels on each side of her head – superficially trapping her, for she had only to move one way or the other to be free of him. He closed his eyes then, trying to snap out of the fey haze that had taken him. “Please,” when he spoke, his voice was low and rumbling from his chest – plaintive in his plea. “I need you to be silent for a moment.”

    Finally, she seemed to notice the light in his eyes and the heat rising from his skin. Her anger cooled just that quickly, and he watched where concern instead filled her gaze. Hesitantly, as if telling herself she should not even as she did so, she reached up to just touch his cheek in a ghostly caress. Her fingers were callused and cool, and yet, they trailed such a spark in their wake. She tilted her head in question, trying to understand what ailed him.

    “Carnistir?” she asked in a soft voice. “Carnistir, what is it?”

    He flinched at hearing her give his name – his true name. He exhaled deeply, trying not to think on how close she was, how near she was. Her eyes were filling with a heat of their own, and he watched where her gaze poured over him as if drinking him in. She looked as if she wished to take her hand away, but instead, she moved to touch the braid that bound the hair from his temples. She fingered the silky plait as if she were a thief touching stolen treasure, before trailing her fingers back even further to trace the upper ridge of his ear until she found its fey point with her curious fingertips. The caress, as slight as it was, caused him to shudder, lightning dancing from the pads of her fingers to join the already turbulent play of heat beneath his skin. He did not want her to take her hand away, even as that same traitorous voice inside of him wondered how her mouth would feel at that same point, and for a moment he -

    Caranthir forced himself to exhale, but it was of little use. He bowed his head before her, the differences in their heights great, but not so great that he could not help but imagine how she would fit against him. He only touched his brow to her own, inhaling the warmth of her skin and the scent of her hair, and when her breath hitched, he knew he was not the only one with such thoughts. He could not be. Souls find their matches in pairs, he remembered Maglor saying, and for a moment he let himself hope, that for everything standing between them . . .

    He tilted her chin up, and found the smoky blue of her eyes nearly black. The sparse light leaking in through the cracks in the wood only let him see her in shadowy shapes, but he knew her face as well as his own now. There was only familiarity as he traced his hand over the curve of her cheek to tuck a stray strand of hair behind her ear and cradle the side of her face in his hand. He exhaled, and shared her breath. Still, she did not move away. Instead, she pressed her face into his touch. He felt her shudder, and her eyes were dark, so very dark when they fixed on his own with a question.

    “Carnistir?” she asked one more time, and the tremble in her voice made her seem years younger than she truly was. His next breath shook, and his fëa leapt wildly within him, pushing, urging . . .

    “You, woman, are maddening,” was all he could manage to say before he dipped his head and kissed her.

    If he was honest with himself, which he normally strove to be, he had imagined kissing her many times over the summer – so many times he had stopped counting for the futility of it. Each of those imaginings had been something fierce and fighting in his mind's eye - a war of hands and mouths, for this was Haleth, after all. Instead, the kiss was soft . . . hesitant, almost. She seemed surprised, her eyes open and wide as she stared at him. She remained painfully still as he simply rested his mouth against her own; unmoving until she seemed to come to a decision in her mind. He felt both of her hands thread around his shoulders and then sink into his hair as she lifted herself onto the tips of her toes in order to better fit herself to him. Then she closed her eyes and returned his kiss slowly and hesitantly. Something inside of him ached all the more so for the tenderness of the moment.

    Of course, it did not stay that way - for he had wanted for too long, and his soul was pushing and possessive as it moved him to take anything, everything, she would offer. He pressed her back against the wall, and she molded herself to him as best she could, biting at his lower lip and giving small, breathless moans into his mouth that he could not before imagine when he had tried. His hands were not sure where to rest, for there was so much that was new to discover - from the shape of her spine to the deep curve of her waist and the tempting play of muscle and softness (so much softness - he had always imagined her hard and unyielding) underneath her tunic. Her own hands were curious to match, touching everywhere she could as she somehow found a way to be more clever than he and snake her hands underneath his tunic and press her palms flat against the hard muscles of his chest. His heart thundered underneath her hand, and she smiled into his kiss upon feeling so. She smiled before seemingly coming to her senses for what they were doing - wrenching herself away from him with an almost pained sound.

    For a moment, he did not understand what she was doing – and yet, she had nowhere to go between the wall and him. She pushed him back, and he parted from her clumsily, his eyes still caught in a haze and his spirit clamoring to gather her to him once more. She would not fight him, she would not turn him away, the fey part of his blood whispered, and -

    Yet, the confused look in her eyes gave him pause, even as his blood heated anew as she touched her mouth with something soft in her gaze that he could not quite define . . . but, it was something he could become used to very quickly indeed.

    He took a step towards her again, but she held a hand up to him. “Wait,” she tried to shape her voice as a command. It only came out breathless, he noted with some satisfaction. “I . . . you . . ." she gathered her thoughts. She forced her words to come out clear and strong. "Your kind do not take lovers lightly, you said.” Something in her voice tightened. It turned hard. “If this is something trivial to you, something -”

    Everything, you mean?” he returned, his voice turned as if shaping a vow. “It is as you said, we do not take partners frivolously.”

    Her brow furrowed. She would not let herself understand him. “Yet . . . you were appalled to hear that my brother's widow would marry anew where she did not love. Love, you were so bewildered to think on anything else, and now . . .” Haleth did not know how to finish her words. She faltered, her mouth opening and closing as she struggled to give her thoughts a voice.

    She let him take one step to her. One step, and then two. “My spirit knows its match,” he answered her in the only way he knew how. “My spirit knows – has known – and . . . it hurts to ignore that call. It is as a physical pain, and I could bear it no more.”

    “Yet,” she took a step back from him, sliding to the right on the wall. “I am mortal. I am but a child in comparison to your great years, and I will turn old and grey before the blinking of an eye to you.” Her voice was low and plaintive as she said so - as if the matter of her mortality wasn't a thought that brought him an all but crippling pain whenever he but considered it.

    “I have lived more in these months than I have in centuries,” he answered honestly, knowing the truth of his words even as he spoke them. “And,” his voice turned low. He tried not to flinch as he spoke. “Someday, that shall be my burden to bear, and not yours.”

    She shook her head. Her hands trembled, and she turned them into fists. “How can you not think that to be my burden?” she asked as if wounded. “To know that I let you do this, that I chained you to my side by not being strong enough to push you away . . . You say so now, but you will not feel the same when time changes me . . . and even if you do, I will not let myself curse you to such an eternity spent alone after my death. I -”

    “ - curse?” he interrupted her. He repeated the word as if it amused him, for truly it did. “I have known dark fates inflicted both by my own sins and foretold by the Valar themselves. If this is to be a curse, then sweet is my doom indeed!”

    She shook her head, her eyes narrowing at him. Even so, he could see where she faltered, where she wanted. His tongue was thick in his mouth, it seemed, helpless to aid him. And yet, if he could but let her see . . .

    He was ever clumsy in the mental arts, preferring action and words spoken to the more fey ways of his people. And yet . . . his fëa was seemingly rising in his throat then. The world around him was loud and pulsing in his veins. He could feel it all; he could sense the thick clouds summoned by the humidity in the air, he could taste the storms on the back of his tongue as they grew overhead. He could feel the ground as it readied itself to yield its fruits; the trees beyond as they set their strong roots deep for the cold season to come. He was the Song in that moment, and if ever he would show her what he felt, it would be now.

    Carefully, he reached out with his senses, trying to find the bright mark of her spirit on that plane. She was a flickering white light to his senses – so much brighter for how quickly she would burn out, and he reached out to open his mind to that light. He concentrated, and . . .

    Well, he thought, at least his question of whether or not they were even compatible was answered then. He had not been sure if he would even be able to bond to her as he would an elven woman. And yet, he doubted that his spirit would have drawn him to her if that would have been the case. The One should have known of the possibility of such a match, he thought next. He had to know, Caranthir could not help but think, for he would not think it a flaw, a fluke to feel this way. How could he, when his very soul seemed to pulse and ache with the rightness of it?

    He saw her eyes widen, and then dart to him in question. This time, when he stepped forward to cup her face in his hands, she let him, grasping on to him as if he was an anchor. “This,” she stammered out dumbly. “This is . . .”

    “A shadow of what a true bond would be,” he answered her. “And the reason why we find it impossible to bind ourselves twice over. For how could I even look at another after sharing this with the one whom my spirit chooses?”

    She looked as if she wished to close her eyes, but she did not, instead opting to stare at him in unveiled wonder. As best he could, he tried to show her what he felt – his awe and humbled respect for both her and her people, and his admiration of her zeal and vigor to fight any she waged to the full. He felt complete when he was with her, he at last let her see. He felt complete, and he could not, he would not let himself imagine a future where he did not take what he could from the few years they would have together. In that, he would know a regret and longing more fierce than the missing he would know after her passing. For, at least, that was to be a natural sundering; something that only the One knew of in whole, and something that perhaps, someday . . .

    But he did not let himself think of that now, not when she was looking at him in such a way. He saw questions and wonder and hopelessness all in her eyes, and for a moment, he let himself hope that her wanting would outweigh her doubts – much as it had with him.

    “I can give you nothing in return,” she told him honestly, waiting until he carefully untangled his spirit from hers in order to speak. “I can offer you not of a place by my side or a home with you. Neither can I leave my people for yours, and I will not take your name as my own . . . I . . . any man would balk before such a union, and I would not blame you for doing the same.”

    He shook his head. “I understand futility in a way that few others can," he said with a grim humor. "That understanding has long taught me to take what little I can and know the blessings to be found in that. That is not what I want . . . and yet, what I truly want is not possible, and I have long accepted that. While this would not be a marriage in the eyes of your people, it would be to mine. Any looking at my eyes would see a shadow of you, and know of my bond. Though,” he admitted ruefully, “it is considered the height of rudeness to not properly seek the consent of one's family and formalize such vows publicly. Yet, this is not a traditional situation, and if you knew my brothers, you'd understand why I would not particularly want to take the formal path.”

    Haleth gave the smallest of smiles, no doubt thinking of the dozens of anecdotes he had shared with her over the last year. He once more bowed his head to rest his brow against her own. In return, she rested her hands against his chest, even as a battle waged in her eyes. Though his spirit was not the force it was earlier, it still sparked against his skin, and he had to forcibly keep his more fey sensibilities down. He knew what he wanted, but he had had months to think on such a thing. Now . . .

    “If I stay here like this with you, I will do something I will later regret,” he said, his voice low and rumbling. Her eyes darkened to match, and she bit her lip as she darted her gaze to his mouth. Perhaps, he let himself hope, it would not take her too long to come to a decision. Besides, he forced the heat in his blood to fade, as much as he appreciated the ambiance of the plow blades and harrow beams behind them, this was not where he had envisioned himself asking for his place in her life. He would prefer somewhere without sickles and scythes staring over his shoulder, he acknowledged with a forced humor.

    “Please, take as long as you need to think this through,” he took a step back from her, though that one step was one of the hardest tasks he had yet to complete in his long life. “There will be no turning back from this, not for me, and I . . . I do not think that I would be able to bear regret on your part. I ask you to consider what I have said carefully, and I . . . I will wait for you.”

    Haleth nodded, her eyes already lost to thought as he turned from her. And yet, before he passed through the door, he turned back one last time to see her touching her hand to her mouth. There was wonder and awe in her eyes, along with something softer, something more . . . In reply, he let himself know hope, and felt as it soared.




    ~MJ @};-
     
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  24. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    What words exist to describe the impact of the sheer loveliness of Estolad and the beauty of what is growing between them? I adored how he finds Haleth lovely because of how her features are uniquely her, and also by her inner loveliness.
    Haleth is vibrant and intricate, well-suited to Caranthir indeed.


    I loved the detailing of the story of Thingol and Melian :)


    You describe soul-bonds merging and entwining with such exquisite lyricness. =D= =D=

    Breathtaken - again - by brilliance :D [:D]
     
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  25. Cael-Fenton

    Cael-Fenton Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Jun 22, 2006
    Those are great descriptions of romantic love amongst the Firstborn, and the resolution of the ST between Caranthir and Haleth was nicely handled. :)