For Love of a Lady - Chapter 9 - Tempus fugit

The rolling green plains of Minhiriath and Cardolan swept effortlessly beneath the thundering hooves of Naur as they galloped faster than the wind through the lush, green pastureland. The long stalks of grass brushed Elladan's feet as they rode and he felt the familiar thrill of exhilaration as their speed increased and they seemed to be flying tirelessly through the fields. Írissë, too, felt the joy of speeding as if on wings and of the wind which shot through her hair yet her attention was elsewhere for the pain of her wound was increasing by the minute and she fairly gasped for air.
"Hold on," Elladan said soothingly, "it will not be long." But long it was for at least eight hundred miles lay between Harlindon and Rivendell and their need was pressing. Írissë was steadily worsening but not one complaint did she utter and Elladan had to rely on his instinct to guess how she felt. Even at the top speed of Naur it would be two and a half days of hard riding without pause and only allowing the horse to rest at night. It was well he was an elf-horse and possessed stamina greater than any beast bred at the hands of men. They rode alongside the Baranduin, taking comfort in its fast running waters and pausing for the night alongside a rocky outcrop from which the water bounced and cascaded like glittering jewels into a wide pool before continuing on its way. Írissë had been silent for some time and Elladan had been growing ever more concerned for her. Her spirits seemed not to wane, however, and despite the cold numbness that afflicted her left side she tried to smile and did not appear melancholy. That night, while Naur took a well-deserved rest, Elladan reapplied the herbs in an effort to slow the poison and was disheartened by the increased blackness around the slim wound.
"Does it hurt?" he asked,
"A little." she replied,
"Tell the truth."
"A lot," she admitted and coughed suddenly. Elladan knew that he would not sleep, he could not even if he tried but Írissë curled herself in his arms and he told her ancient tales of Imladris before she had come to grace it. Tales of his father and of his and Elrohir's frequent adventures. As he did so he felt a surge of pride in his family line, ever he was conscious of the fact that his ancestors were mortal and that the same choice as his father had been laid before him. To stay in Middle Earth and become human or to one day depart into the West and remain an elf. Elladan had always known the decision he would make when the time came and he did not falter now but now every time he thought of such things he was reminded painfully that his little sister would remain and never see the Blessed Lands.

Elrond was known as Halfelven for his lineage came from both the immortal and mortal race. In him ran the blood of Beren and Luthien and, many ages past, that of Melian, the Maia. What indeed that made Elladan he could imagine but in his heart he sought the Lands of the Valar and knew that when the day appointed for his departure came he would welcome it with open arms. Írissë listened carefully to him, interested in everything he had to say, with her eyes closed and a peaceful expression playing across her face. Elladan stroked her long golden hair, absent-mindedly plaiting the silken strands with his fingers. Írissë smiled without opening her eyes and in turn sang Elladan a song of her own folk, the Falathrim. Her voice, though hoarse with all that had passed, was still beautiful and lulled Elladan to a dreamlike state wherein the visions of all that she sang of manifested themselves before his very eyes. He had heard that song before, deep in his mind he tried to fathom from when until it dawned upon him that it had been the song she had sung as she bathed on their way to Mithlond.

"I have heard that before," he said,
"I know," replied Írissë contentedly, "I knew you were there."
"I always know when you are near me." she said and opened her eyes, locking them with Elladan's, "I meant what I said in the forest. I have loved you for a long time, longer than the duration of this journey." He leaned over her and kissed her softly, his lips lingering against hers, never feeling as if he had known such bliss in his lifetime.
"You are the fairest maiden I have ever laid my eyes upon." he replied, "And now I know what it is to truly love someone." He kissed her again and she closed her eyes again, resting them from the blazing sunset that would soon give way to the twilight. Elladan knew what she meant when she said she knew when he was near her. His elf senses were not needed to tell him why his breathing quickened and his heart pounded whenever she was close. Elladan would instantly be aware of her presence and would delight in it for he would wish to see her above everyone. Írissë soon fell into slumber and Elladan spent a peaceful night with her by his side and regretted the onset of the morning. At the back of his mind, though, he was conscious to the fact that she breathed much more shallowly and quickly than was normal and that she was as pale as a ghost. Their flight through the forest had done her no good at all, nor did their lack of food in the previous days or her lack of rest. A healthy person would have lasted some more days bearing the weight of the poison in their heart but Írissë was weary, half-starved and weak and it saddened Elladan to see her this way.
They would reach Imladris in time, they had to

He roused her gently the next morning as soon as the sun was risen. He did not wish to wake her but they needed to make the most of the enduring light for the days were growing shorter and the hours of sunlight were growing fewer. Elladan saddled Naur with his bright harness and Írissë mounted sleepily, holding his mane and fighting to keep herself from falling asleep again. The grey, blurry patches on the edge of her vision were becoming more and more intense and she had trouble making out things which were not directly in her view. She said nothing to Elladan of her troubles, she did not wish to worry him further when he was clearly very preoccupied with her sustaining injuries. The ache in her chest was very great and sapping her of all strength and endurance but still she bore the pain without a word, gritting her teeth against it and exercising the full extent of her fortitude.

Elladan wrapped his arms around Írissë's waist, burying his face in her hair and holding her steady atop the horse lest she slipped and fell with fatigue. Aranwë was right, Naur bore them faithfully and well, galloping faster than the swiftest horse along the banks of the Baranduin, making for the crossing of Sarn Ford. As the sun traversed the sky and rose over the distant peaks of the Misty Mountains in the East the sky was stained a deep blood red shot with thin silver clouds. The bright golden orb lit the heavens aflame and gave light to the plains and trees which leaned their boughs gratefully towards it, drinking the light. Revealed with the new day was the surrounding countryside they were riding through. Low mists hung over fens far afield and the waters of Middle Earth ran gold and sparkling with the light. The lands of Eriador were at their fairest in the first and last appearances of the sun during the day and it took Írissë's breath away to see them like this. Now more than ever she rued the forcefulness with which she had been confined to her home in Imladris and with which she had been ordered to leave all wanderings abroad to her brother. Just as their time in Middle Earth was drawing to a close she was finally allowed to experience the thrill of the earliest dawn from outside the lands of her home. Írissë had once made a vow to herself, never to obey the orders in which she saw no reason and she was glad she had done so this time, disobeying the words of her father. Had she not she may never have won Elladan, she had been granted the opportunity to prove herself to him and she could not give up now. The overwhelming urge to yield to the jarring pain which coursed through her system had been steadily weakening her resilience but she forced herself to find fresh spirit. She could not bear the thought of the worry Elladan was enduring because, despite his best efforts to conceal it, the way he kept glancing at her contradicted his reassuring words.

Imladris came glittering over the horizon like a pearl set amid the emerald lands surrounding it. It was the most welcome sight either Írissë or Elladan had ever seen. For Írissë it meant a soon end to her suffering and the healing of her wounds and for Elladan it was an end to the unceasing worries he had that he was about to lose the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to him. The elven world in which they lived was like a corner of the Elder Days, a place where the years passed not and where all hearts remained young and unwithered. Thousands of years or more it had stood and elves of many kindreds had dwelt within the safety of it's sheer cliff walls. Long had been the creation but intertwined together was now a charming mixture of natural beauty and the things wrought by the elves and they were filled by the love of the makers for that which they made. The rich vale which lay between the rising rock faces was complemented by the everlasting music of falling water as it ran through Imladris and branched off into pools, deep and clear. A wealth of sadness, though, was now mingled with the lilting song of the elves as each realised the yearning that burned deep within their souls. The yearning for the Sea. Very soon this place would be devoid of fair folk, the halls would lie empty and none would be there to tend or enjoy the wide gardens. This sadness was felt no more keenly than in the House of Elrond, whose inhabitants had laboured for many long years for something that they left within a relatively short time. The children of Arwen, Elladan and Elrohir would never be able to explore the favourite places of their parents and for so much beauty to pass away sent a pang into the hearts of all that lived there. As heavy as his heart was whenever he beheld the fair valley he now became joyful as he neared it. He breathed a sigh of relief, his father was here and he would know what to do. Speeding Naur on a little faster they cantered gracefully along the woody path and made their way from the ford.

A fox trotted stealthily from the undergrowth, a recently slain rabbit lying bloodily in its jaws and its yellow fangs were stained with its kill. It was a magnificent creature, sleek rusty fur ran the length of its body and a wide, bushy tail streamed out behind it. It's legs were black and their soft paws padded over the foliage, seeking its den and its mate to whom the rabbit was destined. Without warning across the path of Naur it now ran and the horse shied with surprise. His hooves rose three feet from the ground and he tossed his silver mane proudly even though the whites of his eyes betrayed his sudden fear. Elladan relinquished his hold around Írissë's waist for the briefest of moments in an effort to steady Naur and at that moment she lost her seat, gave a feeble cry and fell weakly to the floor.
"Írissë," Elladan whispered and leapt of Naur's back as swiftly as he could. She had fallen hard on her back and lay in the carpet of falling leaves, holding her hand to her heart where the jolt had only served to increase the life draining ache the poison was afflicting her with. She was having trouble breathing and felt as if her throat was constricting, stopping any breath she might take.
"Are you alright?" Elladan asked frantically, pushing away Naur as he tried to nudge Írissë affectionately in her side. The horse seemed to know he had caused his riders distress and was acting most contritely but doing little good. Írissë could not speak and was beginning to panic for she felt as if her chest was being ripped apart by a burning fire which rent deep into her very soul and laid her spirit bare and vulnerable. Elladan opened the collar of her shirt and frowned gravely for a great malady lay upon her, a direct result from the black stain of poison, resembling a bruise, which lay on her chest. They were too late, it was beginning to take effect and no matter what he did, Elladan would never be able to draw Írissë back were her soul to depart again for the lands of the West. She could not even muster a whisper and Elladan looked anxiously at the Healing House which stood nestled into the hill and only a little way from where they now stood.
"You will be fine," Elladan said gently to her, "I am taking you directly to the healers." As carefully as he could he took Írissë into his arms and she rested her golden head against his shoulder, breathing in short, raspy gasps and fighting to keep conscious. Elladan laid her on Naur and mounted behind her, spurring the beast on without respite. Occasionally he would see the pale glimmering figures of his fellow elves as they walked around under the stars, worshipping the moon and singing to the night. Their voices faltered slightly as the weary horse, streaked with sweat, galloped past them, bearing the son of their lord and the crumpled form of a lady. Curiosity filled all that witnessed them but the shadow of darkness swamped them and they were able to move past without hindrance from questions.
"Faster," he moaned under his breath as they galloped perilously quickly over the hard ground and the sound of Naur's thundering hooves echoed through the valley. The winding road to the Healing Houses was narrow and lined with statues of the Maiar with their arms outstretched in welcome, forgotten images of Aman wrought by the smiths aiding in the very first construction of Imladris. They were long gone and only the fair likenesses of the Blessed Ones remained of them. Candle lanterns swung in the light breeze from pillars either side of the door and shining talismans of healing made of mithril hung along the pale walls. The stars above twinkled down on them as Elladan carried Írissë tenderly into one of the large rooms and beckoned to the physicians.
"Master Elladan?" their surprise was evident in seeing the son of their lord again when he was not expected back but their attention was soon turned to Írissë who lay still in his arms.
"She is hurt," Elladan panted, "grievously and unless you move swiftly she will not survive, please." they motioned him to a bed laden with white linen and he laid her on it, his fears almost overpowering him with apprehension. She made no move of her own and the clear sheen of sweat which shone on her brow grew more as she began to become feverish. The physicians bustled around her, fetching herbs and poultices with
which to draw the poison out but it was not enough.
"My father should be here." Elladan said suddenly and darted through the door, casting one last look at Írissë before he went. He hated seeing her like this.

Elrond was in his study, gazing thoughtfully at the full roundness of the silver moon as it hung between the diamond stars in the sky. He had heard the clattering hooves go past his window a few minutes ago but when he ventured to look he could see only a grey glimmer in the distance before it disappeared around the bend. Now, though, he heard a sharp rap at his door and was surprised to see his son entering and looking somewhat the worse for wear.
"Elladan?" he asked, "What do you do here so many days before you were expected?" Elladan had no time for talk, that was clear. His raiment was torn and dirty with the days of travelling and he knew that there were splatters of blood all over him but there were more pressing matters on his mind.
"The lady Írissë," he said urgently, "she is in the care of the healers but she is sorely wounded and I would be most grateful if you, also, would attend to her." Elrond did not speak another word but followed his son to where Írissë lay. The healers had clad her in simple white muslin and were doing all they could to relieve her pain but she still called out in her sleep and writhed on her bed as if attacked by some great terror only she could see. Elladan observed her for a few moments and then gave swift orders to the physicians and bade them bring him all manner of herbs and healing plants, some of which Elladan had never heard used before.
"There is some great evil at work," Elrond said, "I think not that there is any splinter still in the wound but instead that some lingering will of malice bends an ailment on her."
"He that did this is dead." Elladan spat, "But unsurprised would I be to learn that his malevolence lasts even after his own demise." Elrond raised his eyebrows.
"Nothing have I yet asked you of your journey or of what has befallen the rest of your company even though I admit I am curious but I will expect you to tell me all, especially how the lady obtained such a grave injury when you were acting as her protector." Elladan faced his father and looked him straight in the eye,
"She needs no protector," he said quietly, "she fought and proved herself worthier than anyone else of our party. Without her our errand would have been fruitless." Elrond smiled at him,
"Then you have truly learned to see her as she would have you do so." he said and Elladan threw up his hands,
"Ever you speak in riddles!" In her troubled slumber Írissë groaned suddenly and Elladan went to her side and clutched her hand reassuringly and kissed it. Elrond held his hands over the wound and applied cloth after cloth soaked in a herbal water to it, casting each aside after it was used and requesting fresh material each time. Black stains began to appear on the white cloth after an hour or so of laborious work,
"That is good," said Elrond, "the poison is being drawn from the wound but you brought her hear in the very nick of time, any longer and there would be nothing we could do for her."
"Aranwë lent us a horse that we might ride as quickly as possible back to Imladris," Elladan said, "otherwise it would have been some days before we could have reached here and then she would have gone, again."
"Again?" Elrond paused as he immersed a new cloth into the boiling water, "Might I ask whether you heeded the words I spoke to you on your departure?"
"I did not realise the meaning until the very hour they were needed," said Elladan thoughtfully, his eyes fixed on Írissë's face looking for any sign of improvement, no matter how small, "and then it was thanks to the very blessings of fate that I was able to reach her in time."
"Proud am I of you son." Elrond said, "Few would have taken the paths you did and fewer would have succeeded. You have done well and now your trials are over."
"Not over," Elladan shook his head, "I will take no food or rest until she wakes." Elrond smiled again, infuriatingly cryptic then turned back to the white cloth which, this time, came away bloody.
"What does that mean?" asked Elladan, slightly perturbed. Elrond seemed calm but serious,
"That the last of the poison is gone. There will be some still in her system but it should leave soon and then I hope she will be well. Do not be worried by this wound, she heals quickly, she will be fine."
"I can do the rest," Elladan said, "thank you father."
Elrond nodded, "Very well son." he said, "I look forward to knowing what occurred on your trip. I trust you recovered Lady Vanimeldë?"
"We did, she was quite well last time we met."
"Then you accomplished what you set out to do, and more besides." Elrond glanced briefly at the sleeping Írissë whose hand was firmly in Elladan's and left. Elladan rolled his eyes, used to his father knowing most of his business whether he wished him to or not. When Elrond had gone Elladan released the physicians from their duties and attended to his lady himself. Murmuring soothing words in their own peaceful tongue he carefully bound her wound anew for although the poison was gone, stripping her of the venom had left her injury open and bloody with raw flesh in need of binding. Elladan did bind it with clean linen and when he was done he kissed her softly on her lips and then, despite what he had said to his father, he fell helplessly into a deep sleep by her side, succumbing to his exhaustion at last.

Sunlight. Bright, warm and rousing shone through a chink in the thin curtains at the window. The Houses of Healing were lit with a gentle radiance and the fawn coloured walls were light and free from the shadows of the night. Fears and anxieties could not spawn in Imladris but they could be brought in from outside and could work mischief in the hallowed lands. Elladan had long lain in a slumber so deep it was slowly but steadily erasing all pain and concern from him. The lines of care on his brow were smoothed away by the hours of peace he had been granted and he was utterly tranquil as he slept on through the dawn. As the light and heat of the sun intensified he unconsciously felt a soft touch on his cheek, as light as a feather yet enough to make him twitch and blink himself from sleep. A gentle laughter reached his ears and he was greeted by the sight of Írissë lying next to him, caressing his cheek with her pale fingers. Elladan rubbed his face to shake all weariness from him,
"How long have you been awake?" he asked,
"Not long, although long enough to see you getting rest at last."
"I should not have taken rest," he rebuffed himself, "I should have stayed alert.
"What for?" Írissë asked, "I am well cared for and it brings me peace of mind to know you are happy and well."
"Do you feel better?"
"A little," her hand moved to her aching breast but there was a great difference in the quality of the pain. Yesterday it had depleted any reserve of strength she had left and felt ever sharp and new but now it was duller and caused much less distress than it had done. "It hurts much less now."
"I am glad for you had us all worried for a time. I began to think you would not recover but I know you are a fighter."
"What happened?"
"You fell from Naur last night when he reared in surprise and blacked out soon after. I carried you here and we laboured long through the night to remove the poison from you. It was very lucky we came so soon for it had advanced much further than we had anticipated."
"We?" Írissë asked,
"My father and I. He is the most skilled healer in Imladris and I would settle for nothing less." Írissë nodded and smiled,
"I should have known." she said and turned on her back. Her eyes studied the intricately etched ceiling without really seeing it.
"Does my father know I am here?" she asked, staring fixedly upwards.
"No," Elladan sighed, "he does not. Unless my father has told him." Írissë swallowed hard,
"It will be as if the wrath of Morgoth had broken upon me when he learns of my being here."
"I think not," Elladan replied, "so glad will he be to see you alive."
"And the others?"
"Are expected back before many moons have passed."
"And when can I leave here?" Írissë asked hopefully.
"When you are healed and not before." Elladan said wryly, knowing she wished already to be up and about. "Which will be a good few days yet so bide your time my lady." Írissë grinned, it was just like old times, the memory of the evil and darkness of the past days fading slightly in their return to what passed as normality.
"Why do you call me that?" she asked, "When you know I detest it as much as you detest the title, `Lord',"
"Because," Elladan moved closer to her, relishing the sweet comfort of simply being near her, "you are a lady of the shield of Imladris and worthy of the arms you bear, whatever any may say to you." Írissë regarded him tenderly and then her mischievous smile returned,
"And I thank you for that honour, my lord."

"I wish to see her!" A stern voice echoed down the peaceful corridors, breaking sharply the murmur of soft voices as they sang to the fresh day. Falastur was looking through the rooms in search of Írissë. Elladan had just recently left her to speak with his father and she was again resting. For the past few hours she had begged to be allowed to rise and enjoy again the valley of Imladris which she had once feared she would never see again. She had marvelled that she had grown weary of it and sought adventure beyond the confines of her home. Her pleas had been apologetically rejected, though, and Írissë had been bidden to remain some time longer in what she was coming to think of as imprisonment for even as little as the hours of the single day she had been here were growing tiresome. Nevertheless, the physicians had known better than she and sure enough Írissë had felt the sudden need for rest as her body still fought to free itself from the last remnants of the toxins flowing through her blood.
When her father's voice reached her she stirred gently but did not wake,
"Is she in here?" Falastur would listen not to the doctors as they asked him to leave and he entered Írissë's chamber none too quietly. For a second he paused to observe her in her slumber, serene and calm. Somewhat of a rarity for her. Her eyelashes fluttered and the face of her father swam into view.
"Father?" she asked groggily.
"A merry hunt you led us on." Falastur said coldly, "Your mother was quite distraught and almost insisted we sent a search party for you as well. Do you live merely to cause us trouble?" Írissë regarded Falastur with new eyes. The strict face seemed almost to be set of stone and it was the image of him that always flew into her mind when her thoughts were brought to him. From her earliest years she had known she was loved but rarely had it been shown and she associated Falastur with being scolded and she truly began to fear him. Never, until she had grown, would she defy him and ever would she be somewhat scared of his formidable anger, to which his temper was most prone.
"Well?" he prompted unsmilingly, "What have you to say?" Still Írissë did not yet answer.

She thought of Gáialá, an embodiment of pure evil. In battle with him she had triumphed and he had not been able to subdue her and she had fought the orcs at his command, vanquishing them as well and saving the life of Elladan himself. Falastur knew nothing of her true strength and, probably, he never would but Írissë knew that never could he intimidate her again, in comparison to all she had faced this was nothing. Her father could hurt her no more.

"Nothing," she said, "I have only to say that disobeying you was the right choice and I do not regret it for I have proved myself beyond anything you could have expected of me." Then she turned to face the wall and said no more, a slight smile on her lips. Falastur could only have welcomed the return of Vanimeldë had Írissë gone with them and that kindled a spark of pride in her heart.

Two days passed in this manner. Two days where Írissë lay peaceably in her bed and did not beg Elladan to let her from it, even when the desire for the sunshine tempted her towards the window. Early autumn had dawned upon Imladris but the summer seemed reluctant to relinquish its hold and the weather was unseasonably warm and bright. A few days it was since Írissë was brought in that she began to be restless and yearned to be allowed to go outside, even for a brief time. Elladan sat with her every day as he recovered himself from his journey, taking rest only when she did and spending every spare minute he had by her side. Together they would talk of everything under the sun, of what they most loved about Imladris to more weightier issues such as the land that lay in wait for them beyond the sea. The physicians were rarely needed any more, Írissë's wound was healing fast and her strength growing by the hour so the couple were granted as much privacy as they could wish to be together. Elladan held himself to his promise to his father that he would tell him of everything that had come to pass but his thoughts were always with his lover and he had postponed the formal audience with Elrond for as long as he could, knowing he would have to be with him for some time.
On the third evening Elladan sat atop Írissë's bed, her head laid in his lap and the precious minutes in each others company were savoured by them both. They needed no speech and sat in a serene silence but Elladan could tell there was something on Írissë's mind and waited for her to divulge it.
"Elladan?" she said after a while,
"Yes my love?" he asked. Írissë raised her head and looked towards the riffling curtains at her window. The breeze was soft and warm and the air sultry, the setting sun cast a fiery glow and lit the land aflame as no other time of day could. It beckoned to her and she longed to go out and watch the fireflies dance or breathe the new air.
"When can I go out?" she said, "Long have I bided my time here and I wish not to lie abed anymore. I am well, I feel it in my heart, please let me come out." Elladan looked doubtful,
"My father has recommended you lie here three days still," he said, "and I would not have you jeopardise your health in any way." His concern was very clear and his grey eyes were filled with emotion,
"Oh but I am well, I know I am. Leaving my bed for a brief time is not likely to make me sicken again." Elladan regarded her wisely and Írissë adopted a beseeching gaze and fixed it upon her lover. She grasped his hand and waited in anticipation, hoping for his consent.
"I will hold you to blame should you become ill once more." he said warningly and Írissë grinned,
"Thank you!" she cried and climbed out from under her covers and padded quickly across the floor to where her clothes lay. Elladan groaned, knowing she was going to drag him outside with her. Her strength had returned remarkably quickly even though her injury would give her trouble for some weeks to come. She slipped into her thin silk gown and fastened it over her linen shift. It felt strange to wear a dress after days in breeches and the sensation was oddly unsettling. She took Elladan's hand and hauled him off the bed, he insisted on draping a velvet mantle around her shoulders before he would let her go out.
"The physicians would have my head if they knew I was allowing you to leave your bed. I am supposed to be taking care of you." he said,
"And so you are," she replied, "for if I am made to lie here any longer then I will grow quite sickly and restless."
The long, low rays of the sun felt warm on her skin and she fairly danced out of the door, Elladan in tow. Her delight in the outdoors made Elladan smile for their journey had taken them far from light and she deserved to enjoy it after all she had been through. They spent hours together, walking slowly around the grounds, listening to the babbling brook and visiting their faithful Naur in the stables. Írissë's horse, Linta, had come back after fleeing at Mithlond and had been fed and watered back to health from what must have been a most dishevelled condition. She wandered barefoot across the grass, musing quietly to herself and accepting graciously the last rose which Elladan had plucked for her.
"Your brother and the rest of our party have just been spotted over the ridge," he said breathlessly after speaking with the sentinels, "they should be with us in as little as an hour." Írissë adopted a wistful look for she longed to see her sister again, their joyful reuniting had been far too short-lived and Írissë missed her.
"I should go and speak with my father," Elladan went on, "I have tarried with you for
too long."
"Then go," Írissë said merrily, "I will await the coming of the company alone, as long as I am not caught by the physicians."

Elladan walked slowly away to his father's study. Elrond sat therein, bent over the scrolls and parchments he so loved. He looked up at the entrance of his son and smiled,
"It is good to see you," he said, "for although you have been in Imladris for three days I have hardly seen anything of you. How is the lady Írissë?"
"She is better, much better," said Elladan thankfully, "yet she would not be had you not helped her in her need."
"Her wound was a grievous one," Elrond nodded thoughtfully, "and it must have taken great strength of will to bear it as far as she did. I hear the company is soon to return."
"Yes they were spotted to the West ten minutes ago." said Elladan, "They will soon be here."
"Are you ready yet to tell me of your journey?" Elrond said, "I confess I am curious." Elladan took a deep breath and told his father everything that had happened since they had ridden out of the gates of Imladris so many days earlier. He spoke of the treacherous crossing of the Midgewater Marshes, of Calimmacil's near bewitchment by the spectre. He told Elrond what had happened with the orc-host, how Írissë had saved his life and how she herself had been struck, how the storm at Mithlond had near killed them and how they had learned from the sailor where Vanimeldë and Gáialá had gone. Elladan described with a shudder the way the forest hung with an unfathomable darkness and was teeming with Gáialá's orcs. His voice was growing hoarse as he told Elrond of the last battle, how when all was lost the coming of Aranwë had proved their saviour until Írissë had been hit and her soul had departed from her body.
"You followed her?" Elrond prompted and Elladan assented.
"I had to do something," he said, "I could not let her go."
"And it is well that you did for I had foreseen what was coming to her."
"I had guessed that much," replied Elladan, "your words were all I could think of, as melancholy as they seemed." his voice was thick, he did not like to think of the time he had believed Írissë to be lost to him. His father understood and did not press him with questions, what had befallen Elladan and Írissë in the shadowed realm was a secret known only to the both of them for a long time.
"I think I unnerved Elrohir," Elladan reminisced with a smile, "he came across us while we were both...gone and he thought we were dead. A nasty shock for him, I can imagine." Elladan spoke little of their swift flight back to Imladris after they had left the forest; those times when he had been consumed by worry and had carried Írissë even with great weariness to the Healing Houses.
"You have not spoken of that which it grieves your heart to remember," Elrond said knowingly. Elladan grinned, he had often found his father's omniscient air to be highly exasperating but suddenly it was bizarrely comforting.
"And I will ask you nothing of it. Only know that you have done very well to get this far and recover the lady Vanimeldë. The house of Barándâ has caused us many problems over the past few weeks."
"And much joy also," mused Elladan, very much more to himself and blushed when Elrond raised his eyebrows.
"That also I had foreseen," he said with a measure of humour, "and I am glad to see it has come to fulfilment so successfully for you, son." he rose and embraced Elladan fondly, "I am glad you are back with no visible harm done to you," he said, "you and your brother have no idea how much I worry for you both." Elladan had a pretty good idea how much anxiety was involved, having experienced much the same himself. He left his father's chambers soon afterwards and went to greet the returning party. They had taken a leisurely trip back, allowing all their wounded ones to heal and for their strength to regrow after the battles and toil they had undertaken. They came now as a merry company, crossing the bridge and going through the wide silver gates.
"Brother!" Elrohir ran to Elladan, the pair had seldom been separated since their birth and it grieved both to be from the other for long.
"The lady?" Elrohir asked nervously, "She is recovered?"
"She is well enough," said Elladan, "though it will be a while." There was a happy pandemonium as Vanimeldë was reunited with her friends and family and everyone swarmed in a joyful group around her, welcoming her back and listening to what she had to tell. Her bright eyes scanned for her sister but she could not be seen and she called across to Elladan as to where she might be found. Elladan answered her but caught the eye of Calimmacil and was surprised and disconcerted by his look of stormy anger.
"Calimmacil!" Elladan called to him but Calimmacil turned and stalked off. Elladan took Vanimeldë to where Írissë sat on the grass, she had watched them come in but had thought it better to stay where she was. The thought of being surrounded by people, all talking and laughing and shouting in her ears was too much for her. She could not have borne it. Her eyes lit up as she saw Elladan leading Vanimeldë to her, up the grass and she ran to meet her,
"Írissë!" she cried, "I am so happy to see you at last!"
"And I also!" she replied in a tight embrace, "How I have missed you." The sisters stayed long in conversation together until Elladan insisted Írissë return to her chambers with the Healers.
"I will brook no contradiction," he said tenderly, "I have done much in letting you from your bed." Írissë agreed and they wound their way, hand in hand back up the path. Two pairs of eyes followed them, Elrohir watched them happily but Calimmacil was burning with anger.

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