Bend in the Wind - Ch7: Brink of Discovery

Disclaimer: see chapter one
Names/Pronunciations will come at the end of each chapter.

`*' signals a footnote
"text" signals dialogue
`text' signals thoughts

A/N: A lot of people are assuming that Elrohir is the secret admirer. Are you sure??? *evil author laughter*

__________________________________________
Chapter 7.) The Perplexing Nature of Poetry

***
if day
has to become night
this is a beautiful way

- e. e. cummings
***

Aug 8, 12 Fourth Age

Nessúlë put down her book with a contented smile. It had ended happily. She hated stories with morose endings - they reminded her too much of darker times.

"You look very pleased with yourself." Mírea, a younger elleth who often haunted the library, came out from behind a nearby bookcase, tome in hand.

Nessúlë's smile grew wider. She had become rather fond of the bookish maiden.

"Yes, Mírea, I am very pleased. I have spent a delightful morning with the last selection you gave me and am very satisfied with the ending. It makes me feel like laughing."

Mírea shook her head knowingly and sat down across from Nessúlë on a blanketed divan. She picked up the pot of tea on a small table between them and poured herself a cup.

"You are quite amusing to me, Nessa. I know very well that you looked at the ending before taking my advice to read it; the conclusion can't have come as a surprise to you. Why then this giddiness?"

Nessúlë laughed as she gently closed the book and got up to set it back on the shelf. "Oh, but the journey was delicious. And I only knew that the tone of the ending was happy. I didn't know all the particulars."

Mírea shook her head again and opened the history she had picked out, not bothering to take leave of Nessúlë before she began reading. Nessúlë was not put off in the slightest. Their young friendship had thus far revolved entirely around the library, and there was no ceremony to stand upon. Without further ado, Nessúlë left in search of more vigorous exercise.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Elrohir's unmistakable chuckle vibrated in the air as he came pushing through layer upon layer of damp, white linen. Many of the single ellith laughed gaily, or blushed demurely as this lord among Elves pressed his way into their feminine gathering, but the older ladies, with clothespins clasped to their aprons, just shook their heads and looked knowingly at one another.

As the day was very fine, Elrohir willingly, and with good humor, entertained the maidens for a few minutes with his charming smile and playful wit. But he soon took gentle leave of them and inquired where he might locate the lady which he had set out to find. Having been directed to move on through another forest of hanging laundry he departed, ducking between breeches and tunics as he went.

The directions were sound. Within but a few moments Elrohir's head poked out into a glade of billowing sheets, and there, with a large bundle of damp laundry at her feet, sat the end of his searching, dressed in simple off-white cotton and perched on a low wooden stool. Her dark hair was slipping out of the knot it had been tied in, but she looked none the worse for it.

"What are you doing?" he questioned, his brows brunching together as he observed Nessúlë unexpected occupation.

Nessúlë smiled but did not look up at him. She dunked the light blue bodice she had been holding into a bucket of warm water between her feet and rubbed powered soap into the berry stain along the hem. Since he received no reply, Elrohir indulged himself by simply watching in fascination as she worked. Her hands were lithe and skilled, moving deftly about their task. Trails of water ran unchecked down her elbows, wetting the sleeves that would not, for all Nessúlë's efforts, stay safely pushed up her arms. Her shorter working dress showed a glimpse of sun-kissed legs and delicate ankles being caressed by the verdant grass. While her reckless hair, warm and fragrant, kept trailing down along her cheek, taunting Elrohir mercilessly and simply begging to be touched*. Averting his eyes firmly, Elrohir stared at the flowered pattern of a bed sheet and attempted to regroup his senses.

"What do you imagine I am doing, son of Elrond?" Nessúlë finally replied as she laid the petticoat aside. "Can you not guess?"

Elrohir took a deep breath and stepped out from the sheet, parting them with his hands.

"Do not trail your hands on the laundry," Nessúlë reprimanded, a little more sharply than she had intended, "you should know better. Where have you come from?"

Sitting down beside Nessúlë's stool Elrohir rubbed his hands unconsciously against his breeches. "I was at the archery ranges."

"Well," she replied in a conciliatory fashion, "I suppose your hands can't be too dirty then. I know you tend to your bow well."

Elrohir was not sure if he should take this as a compliment. He decided to ignore the issue.

"I ask again, what are you doing? - Now don't give me that look. I am well aware of what you are doing, but why are you doing it?"

Nessúlë chuckled softly and threw a damp shirtsleeve over Elrohir's head. "I wanted to be of some use. A holiday is all well and good, but one does not want to be idle for too long. At least I do not. I asked Mirima if there was anything that I could put my hands to."

Elrohir smiled broadly and looked up at Nessúlë, who because of the stool, was a full foot above him. "I didn't know that I could think any better of you, Nessúlë, but your confession has raised you even further in my esteem. I often wish that I were more industrious. But if I recall, you have not always been this way. You were willing enough to relax when you first came to Imladris."

Smiling jovially, Nessúlë retrieved the shirtsleeve from where it had slipped down onto Elrohir's shoulder. "Aye, I was more than willing to rest at that time. However, life is a deal more settled now that it was then. And I was recovering from an injury during part of my stay... But what is this you speak of? You are very industrious as far as I can tell. All of your people speak very highly of you."

The woolen sock which lay nearby was too tempting - Elrohir picked it up and tossed it at Nessúlë. She merely chuckled and flicked it off.

"I am very glad to hear it," Elrohir finally replied, leaning back on his hands and enjoying the smell of the clean wash. "But I only do what I must. There are few constructive things that I do on impulse."

Nessúlë got up from her stool to hang a few more pieces of treated laundry up. "And what are they," she called back as she began draping a pillow sham over the line. As she dealt with the rest of her load up she waited expectantly for an answer. It was delayed in coming.

"Archery, killing evil creatures, acquainting myself with other languages, reading a few of the histories, caring for my friends... writing. Although killing evil creatures is the only thing I have done with enduring vigilance."

Nessúlë came back and sat down on her stool. "That seems well enough to me. You are dutiful in fulfilling your role here and you should not be hard on yourself if you take opportunity to rest and enjoy life as well. I merely do not enjoy myself when I have been idle for too long... Did you say writing?" Nessúlë's mind jumped to another plane, "What sorts of things do you write?"

Elrohir smiled secretively. "That is not for the present moment, I think. I have shown very few people what I write."

Nessúlë tried hard to keep the pettiness from her voice. "You don't trust me to-"

"No, no, nothing like that," Elrohir assured her. "Now just isn't the right time, I believe."

With a resigned shrug Nessúlë reached down to take a few more things from the laundry bundle but paused when she spied a sealed letter that had been hidden beneath a dark green skirt. Her name was written on the outside, again in Mannish script, though slightly blurry due to the moisture. A sudden flush pervaded her cheek and she looked away quickly. Gingerly, Elrohir picked up the note and eyed it thoughtfully.

"What is this?" he asked softly.

Nessúlë muttered something unintelligible under her breath and then turned back to him. Her chin was set resolutely.

"I will not lie to you, mellon. It is another letter, one of several, from someone who I am unable to name. Someone who... who seems to... admire me."

Elrohir cocked an eyebrow and very slowly handed the note to Nessúlë, who was trying desperately to look nonchalant. Having no logical reason to delay, she broke the seal and opened the letter. She hoped that Elrohir would not detect the slight air of anticipation which she was sure must be hanging about her. It was hard to remain neutral toward the idea of being wooed by a mysterious suitor, no matter how much she was rationally opposed to the idea.

The note read as follows:

Na i'gwen o i'ëar {To the Maiden of the Sea*},

I am not convinced that these lines do you justice, for there is nothing frail about you, but they were on my heart. A maiden is often recreated in the mind of the one who holds her in his heart. I hope that you do not find me overly presumptuous.

Somewhere I have never traveled before
Beyond any experience
Your eyes have their silence
In your most frail gesture are things which enclose me
Things which I cannot touch because they are too near

Your slightest look will easily unclose me
Though I have closed myself as fingers
You open me always petal by petal
As Spring skillfully, mysteriously opens her first rose

Or, if your wish be to close me,
I and my life will shut very suddenly
As when the heart of a flower imagines
The cold frost everywhere descending

I do not know what it is about you
That closes and opens me
Only something in me understands
The voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses
Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
*

Nessúlë's hands trembled almost imperceptibly as she lowered the letter to her lap. She felt oddly flustered.

`No one has ever written a poem for me,' she thought wistfully before chiding herself with vehemence for her own simpering folly. `Don't be such a simpleton!' She sighed sharply but could not keep the bloom from spreading on her cheek. `The fellows at home would be most amused to see me now - I'm acting like a tittering maiden.'

Elrohir watched carefully as a host of emotions darted across Nessúlë face. He was unsure what she was thinking.

"Does he grow on you?" he inquired hesitantly.

Nessúlë looked up quickly then brought her gaze back to the note in her lap. Elrohir's voice held a mystery which she was entirely too muddled to sort out. It was as though he were unusually anxious for her answer.

"Well, I... don't know," she finally replied, smoothing out the parchment against her knees. "I... I don't know."

Nessúlë met Elrohir's eyes once more, bewildered. "Elrohir, he," she held up the note pitifully, "he wrote me a poem." She seemed dazed.

"And does that displease you?" Elrohir's voice was unusually soft.

Nessúlë shrugged helplessly. "I don't know."


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Are you sure they will be alright?" Nessúlë inquired anxiously as she observed the rigid way in which Oloriel handed a cup of after-dinner tea to her husband. Apparently, the couple had had some sort of tiff that afternoon.

Elrohir smiled softly. "Yes, they'll be fine. They never go to bed angry, it is a pact they made with each other after their first real argument as newlyweds."

Nessúlë shook her head wonderingly. "I could never have imagined them fighting until now. It seems so unnatural."

"Aye, it is," Elrohir agreed as he and Nessúlë moved out onto the veranda to enjoy the blazing sunset and get away from the tense atmosphere inside. "But it is also unavoidable. One can't be decorous all the time; everyone has the potential for pettiness."

"I suppose... no, I know you are right," Nessúlë nodded. "I have done enough foolish things in my life to understand that."

Elrohir chuckled. "You do something foolish? Nay, the wise shield maiden of East Lorien could never be so rash."

"How do you think I gained my wisdom?" the dark-haired elleth shot back blithely, beginning to push against the floor with her foot so that the hanging swing they sat upon would rock back and forth. Her attempts weren't very successful as Elrohir's long legs anchored them hopelessly to the ground.

"Move your feet, you great lout," Nessúlë chided affectionately.

Elrohir's eyebrows rose in surprise. "A fine way to treat your companion in crime," he scoffed.

That afternoon, after some stammering and self-conscious delay, Nessúlë had finally worked up the courage to ask Elrohir to read the mystery poem. She had wanted to know if it was original, or if it was merely pulled up from an old book somewhere (why she wished to know this was a point on which she would not converse, even with herself). She had also wanted Elrohir's help in deciphering whose hand might have written it. On the first count, Elrohir had declared it to be, as far as he knew, an original work. On the second count neither had any luck. The admirer's identity remained a mystery.

"Do you...?" Elrohir's voice trailed off and he stared uncomfortably out into the gloaming. The trees were awash in golden hues, their light echoed by the fireflies that were hovering within the darkened margins of the wood.

"What were you going to say?" Nessúlë whispered several moments later. A calm had descended on the valley and for some reason it felt wrong to her to disturb the evening peace. Inside she could hear soft murmuring and guessed that Elladan and Oloriel must be reconciling with one another. Before Elrohir replied, Nessúlë slowly turned around and looked back into the sitting room.

Oloriel was leaning into Elladan's embrace while the Elf stroked her hair and whispered words of apology in her ear. Oloriel shook her head rather like a child and declared softly that, no, she had been wrong, not him. Nessúlë's smiled but looked discreetly away as Elladan leant down to claim a kiss from his wife. She caught Elrohir's gaze as she turned back toward the sunset.

"Does this secret admirer turn your mind toward," he glanced back inside quickly, "toward thoughts of... having another?"

Nessúlë bit her lip and looked out at the purple clouds. It was some minutes before she spoke.

"I will not deny that this little adventure has piqued my interest," she replied slowly and thoughtfully, "Whatever it is that surrounds your brother and sister-in-law must be a wondrous thing. To know that you will always be forgiven, always be comforted and supported, continually inspired... loved. ...This is the dearest blessing, I believe. I had always looked to my brother for these things, but it seems that he has found a deeper vein. Do I want to share in this discovery as well?" she sighed. "It is very beguiling."

This was all that she would say. A few minutes later she bid good night and went to her room.

Having put on a light nightgown, she walked over to her window and, pushing aside the gauzy curtains to let a timid breeze in, pulled the crinkled letter from her pocket and read the poem once more. Without thought, her mouth curved up in a tender smile. Perhaps, at that very moment, there was someone else standing at his window, thinking of her and watching the stars wheel overhead. Perhaps.

A giddy shiver went up her spine and Nessúlë turned from the window with an amused shake of the head. With a sigh she went to her bed and lay the letter down on her nightstand, beside the other tokens that she had received over the past several days. A dried rose, a peacock quill, a handmade leather book, a minute crystal bottle filled with scented oil, a small dagger, and several notes. She let her hand trail over these and then brought it up to finger the golden chain at her neck. It was almost offensive to be wooed so by gifts, to be bought. And yet, there was a thoughtfulness behind the gifts, an understanding of what would please her, and always a short note explaining why this or that was chosen.

As she slipped into bed Nessúlë impulsively placed the poem under her pillow, blowing out her candle before she could change her mind. As the crickets chirped lazily under her window and the stars winked down at her, Nessúlë drifted off to sleep thinking of poetry and sunsets and possibilities. There would be enough time for thinking reasonably when the morning came.


***

1. As I have heard it told, Tolkien's Elves found hair to be very alluring.
2. The poem was written by e. e. cummings, though I have done some very noticeable editing to make is seem a little less modern and thus more possibly Elvish.

Things to Know:

Nessúlë: "young spirit"
Elrohir: "elf knight"
--- `el' is a short version of `Eldar'=Elf
--- `rohir' is literally "horse lord" but Tolkien specified that the intended interpretation
was "knight"
Mírea: "glittering"
Mirima: "free"

mellon: "friend"

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