Never Say Never - Part Fifteen
"Rían, why the dark mood?" Arwen asked as she brought her horse alongside.
"No dark mood, I am only concerned for your safety and will not relax until you are in your grandparents' care."
Arwen watched Rían, knowing she was hiding her true emotions. She had seen how eagerly her friend had packed for the trip and yet, when questioned of it Rían would answer, "The sooner you are safely in Lothlórien, the sooner I may return to Imladris."
"We have ample guards in the escort, we will be in Caras Galadhon by midday...you need not worry so!" Arwen smiled.
"I apologize, but my only other trip to Lothlórien does not hold many happy memories."
"Ai, Rían, I have been thoughtless! It is I who should apologize - "
"It is all right," Rían smiled reassuringly. "That happened a long time ago but sometimes the memories are difficult."
A silence fell amongst the group and Arwen rode forward to speak with Glorfindel's second, who was leading the Imladhrim.
Rían did not mean to use her parents' deaths as an excuse, but she did want to be left alone to gather her emotions.
Initially, she had worried that memories of the attack would disturb her and for a time they did indeed clutter her mind. However, as they grew closer to Lothlórien, those memories were replaced by other, more troubling, thoughts.
With a sigh, Rían turned her gaze to the forest on the horizon and fell deep in contemplation.
When Erestor had told her she would be travelling with Arwen to Lothlórien, she did not know what to think! Of course she would go, this was her assignment and she never shirked her duty. But there were other elves, already attached to the escort, who could handle any diplomatic duties that might arise; so why single her out?
Surely, Arwen and Elrond would not meddle in her affairs! Would they? Elladan and Elrohir would not hesitate to, they had proven that on too many occasions! Why send her to Lothlórien? Was there even an ulterior motive? Or maybe, as Arwen suggested, she needed something constructive to do with her time? She *had* become reclusive lately.
With another, heavier sigh, Rían gave up on trying to find the answer when a dark muzzle reached over and nudged her to the present.
Rían finally smiled as she ran a hand along the bay neck. "Soon, impatient one."
The horse nickered softly and pranced about in restrained eagerness at Rían's side. When the escort began to leave Imladris, the bay filly appeared from nowhere and refused the order to return. Rían saw the excitement in the dark eyes and understood.
"Orophin is going to be surprised to see you," she said softly. The filly tossed her elegant neck in answer and continued with Rían and her own mount.
A ghost of a smile lingered on Rían's lips as she remembered receiving the first letters from the Lórien brothers; Rúmil's was filled with teasing threats of revenge for the hair-braiding incident. He vowed repeatedly to pay her back along with her partner in crime.
`I never knew Haldir could be so devious,' Rúmil had written. `Perhaps you bring out the best in him? Or is it the worst? Truly, I cannot tell with the two of you.'
Rían knew he was only teasing but it did not stop the blush from turning her face hot. Thank the Valar she had been alone when she read the letter!
Her smile slowly faded as she remembered Orophin's first letter.
As she read it, she almost felt as if he were sitting beside her instead of being miles and miles away. He inquired of her well being and Erestor's, and he thanked her again for making their time in Imladris so pleasurable. He spoke of the trip back home and of the brief visit with Arwen and her escort as she made her way back to the valley.
When he spoke of his oldest brother, it was then Rían felt her heart stop.
`He appears lost, Gwathel. I have never seen him as such...and if I were to guess, I would say he left a part of himself in Imladris.'
An agonizing pain in her soul flared at Orophin's words and Rían had become unaware of the tears that blurred her vision. That statement could very well be said of herself for she had felt as if a part of her own heart had left with the Galadhrim.
Over the years, she had written many times to Rúmil and Orophin, and they her. When a courier arrived from Lothlórien, she found herself eagerly awaiting him and rushed to take charge of the letters. She so looked forward to those deliveries and would re-read the letters until new ones were received! Rían held no disillusions and knew there would be no letters from Haldir's own hand...for she feared it was the same reason that kept her from writing to him. Nevertheless, that did not stop her from eagerly looking for any word of him in his brothers' correspondence.
Rían did not know how long she was lost in her own musings when the horses came to a halt. She looked around and saw they were will within the borders of the Golden Wood. Several elves silently appeared and Rían immediately recognized the leader, Rúmil.
As he greeted Arwen and Glorfindel's second, Orophin walked into view. He froze for a moment as he spied Rían. A radiant smile spread across his face as he quickly hurried toward her.
Rían unknowingly scanned the area and felt her heart fall. He was not here.
"Gwathel!" Orophin exclaimed. "It has been so long! Why did you not send word you were coming?!"
Orophin's excitement was contagious and Rían smiled back and lightly dismounted.
"I did not know I was coming until the last moment," Rían answered as he embraced her briefly then stepped back to stare happily at her. "I hope I did not surprise you too badly."
"A most wonderful surprise to be sure!" Rúmil called out, his own smile showing his pleasure at seeing her. He would have enjoyed talking more to Rían but his duty was to escort Arwen to Caras Galadhon and this he now resumed.
As the group began to move, a large dark shape bumped gently into Rían.
"Well go on," she said, her voice filled with amusement. "There is your Orophin."
The horse walked to the stunned elf and nickered gently. Reverently, the young galadhel placed a hand on her muzzle.
"The bay filly," he whispered in confusion. "I do not understand."
"She would not let me leave her behind," Rían smiled as the horse rubbed her face ever so gently on Orophin's chest. "She had chosen you when you were in Imladris."
"Rían, this gift is - "
"It is her gift. She is home now, Orophin."
Comprehension sank in and Orophin pressed his forehead to the mare's. "I am honored, thank you."
"She would not let me pass on the road out of the valley," Rían said as they followed the escort. "She missed you...so have I."
"I know it has only been a few short years but if feels like an entire age has passed! I have every letter you sent," Orophin said, noticing how Rían kept looking around discreetly.
Rían saw the knowing look in his eyes and tried to explain away her actions. "I did not get to fully enjoy the Golden Wood on my last visit. I hope to remedy that this time."
Orophin knew her words were half-truths and that she could not voice her real question.
"He is still at the northeast fences," he said gently. "Rúmil and I were recalled just days ago."
Rían swallowed hard and silently cursed the trembling of her hands as she remembered the dangers Lothlórien faced.
"I know you did not speak of it in your letters," she began solemnly. "Word has reached us of increasing attacks from Dol Guldor. How bad has it become?"
Orophin heard the concern and anxiety in her voice. He had not wanted to alarm Rían in his letters but he should have known the news would reach Imladris anyway. He would be honest with her, he decided. He did not need to avoid the subject or gloss it over, as Rían was no stranger to battle.
"The raids have grown in frequency, I will not deny that. Lord Celeborn believes they are testing our defenses; scouting. But it is nothing we cannot handle, Gwathel," he said as he took her hand in his to reassure her.
Looking into that blue-grey gaze, Rían felt her heart calm.
"Gwador," she said softly. "I do not know what I would do if - "
"Not another word," interrupted Orophin. "We will not ruin this wondrous day with such talk."
They walked a little longer in silence; Orophin's smile returned as Rían gently brushed her fingers against a mallorn tree here and there. When he spoke again his tone was light hearted and teasing.
"Haldir's continued presence on patrol is not because of the orcs. Truthfully...since returning from Imladris he has been impossible to deal with; he is most surly and his moods change without warning! Lord Celeborn himself keeps Haldir assigned to the marches longer; let him take out his problems on the orcs instead of innocent elves!"
Rían fought back a chuckle at the picture Orophin presented. Although he exaggerated just a bit there was still much truth to his words. Haldir had indeed become more melancholy in the past years. When he was not on duty or with his brothers, he was often found alone, staring unseeing towards the north. Celeborn and Galadriel had attempted to speak to him of his troubles but the marchwarden vehemently denied anything wrong. He threw himself further into his duties, desperately trying to maintain his distant, cold façade; a façade the Lord and Lady of the Golden Wood had already seen through.
Upon reaching the city, the horses were taken to the stables and the members of the escort shown to their quarters. Rúmil led Arwen and Rían to the royal talan, much to Rían's confusion.
Were her services already required? she wondered.
She watched with a smile as Arwen greeted her grandparents with hugs and kisses. They chatted briefly for many long moments before Celeborn noticed another dark haired elf standing beside Orophin.
"Rían," he said, his voice warm and welcoming. "I am so pleased to see you once more."
"Lord Celeborn," Rían bowed to him, her hand briefly held over her heart in respect.
She quickly grew nervous when he walked closer, coming to a stop only inches from her. The Lord of the Golden Wood looked deeply into her eyes as he searched for something; what she did not know. His gaze was gentle but there was no mistaking the power that emanated from him.
"I want to thank you for making sure my granddaughter arrived safely. I know she can be trouble at times," he finally said, hoping to put Rían at ease.
"Ohhh, Ata'da," Arwen groaned. "Ada says I am no more trouble than my brothers."
"Precisely my meaning," Celeborn grinned, looking to Galadriel.
They held each other's gaze and a wealth of information was shared in that moment.
"I am happy you came, Rían," Galadriel said. "I hope your stay will be most pleasant."
"Thank you, my Lady," Rían bowed again, her nerves on edge.
Why the focus on her? She was only a part of Arwen's escort. She should have been shown to her quarters along with the others, not here in the royal talan having a private audience!
"We are having a welcome feast in two nights," Galadriel continued, her voice having a calming effect on Rían. "and perhaps you would like to see more of the forest."
"I would indeed, my Lady."
"Orophin will show you to your quarters so you may rest. He and Rúmil will escort you to dinner this evening." Galadriel's eyes twinkled with delight.
Rían bowed once more, as did Rúmil and Orophin, and then left the talan.
"She would not have come if Ada had not assigned her to my escort," Arwen said once the others were out of hearing.
Galadriel stood next to her husband and took his hand in hers.
"Do we recall him from the fences yet?" she asked, although she already knew his answer.
"It is too soon. We will give him a little more time," Celeborn answered with a mysterious grin.
Ata'da - grandfather (?)