Shadow and Silver: The Story of Aurelin - Chapter 17
This chapter ends the flashbacks, so no intercutting anymore. You can decide whether it is bad or good !
Also in answer to comments I have added a bit more descriptions, so I hope the chapters starting from 16 are better for it.
Disclaimer: All the world of Eä is the wonderful creation of JRR Tolkien and I am only borrowing. I only claim ownership of Aurelin, Laswing, Calenloth and Belegorn.
The pain in her shoulder was getting worse but at the same time duller - Aurelin was readying herself to surrender to it.
She was wandering alone in the gardens of Imladris, between the patches of the warm colours of autumn flowers - yellow, red and brown and pink - in the midst of by now somewhat faded-green grass. There was a very slight drizzle (it meant that the younger Elves might go mushroom-gathering in the next morning) but Aurelin did not take much notice of it. She rarely did these days. Walking back to the House after doing needlework with Arwen, she only drew her cloak more tightly closed against the fine drops of water, not bothering with the hood, eyes distant and sad as she looked up when hailed by a young rather handsome brown-haired and grey-eyed Elf. Dorongeleb, Aurelin recalled his name was, the one that had searched contact with her for a few months now, starting soon after he arrived in Imladris. She nodded in acknowledgement of his greeting but looked quickly away before he had a chance to invite himself to share her path.
She was now being called Andhúwen, the name her mother gave her, or Nínlos, Snow-tear, more often than Aurelin, Song of Daylight. Her mother Calenloth was mostly closeted in her room, she shunned all people except her daughter. Lord Elrond had got his wife back but she was changed and soon went over the Sea. Aurelin had seen her mother react to Celebrían's leaving and knew that in her heart Calenloth would have wanted to go with Celebrían. What had kept her from leaving? Aurelin knew she was the reason - her mother was afraid to leave her daughter alone when she was still young and had not seen much of life. It had all taken a toll on her and she visibly wilted like a flower without water and light. All the spirit that Aurelin had inherited from both her parents, many said twicely magnified, was gone from her mother. Calenloth had suffered because of her losses before, but she had always had Belegorn Lasbelin beside her. Now he was gone and she didn't have anyone to lean on. Aurelin wished her mother could have seen her as a supporter instead of someone in need of it, but she did not. Calen was heartbroken and yearning to go to the West.
Aurelin went slowly towards her room, the place depressive now with all the laughter gone that had been there when the family had been whole. Softly she opened the door and entered, recieving as greeting the sound of her mother crying in the room next to hers. And there was nothing she could say or do to comfort her, she had tried to do that many times before and failed, realising that had hurt even more than just hearing the weeping. Aurelin knew that things could not continue the way there were and that her mother would leave her alone, it was only a matter of time. She remembered all the good times, the tale-telling that her parents had loved to do and she to listen, she dancing in the grass under the stars or looking at her mother and father dancing together. They had been so happy! And she realised how fortunate she had been and how unknowing of her luck. She felt tears springing and falling from her eyes, it was easy for her now - somehow it was even more natural to cry than to do anything else. With tear-blurred eyes Aurelin threw open her door to escape from the sound of her mother's heart breaking sobs and ran, not even knowing where, nor caring.
"Three hours! Hold on for three hours, sweetheart!" Laswing whispered into Aurelin's ears. Her pulse was getting weaker. He had washed her wound once again and tried to have her drink, not succeeding.
"My love, you can't surrender. We are so close. You are the most beautiful of everything I have ever seen, more precious than the Sun and more brighter than the Moon, sweeter than any flower. How can I be without you? My little pearl, the loveliest blossom in the gardens of Imladris." He knelt by her side and buried his head in her hair, that faintly smelled of roses from the mixture she used to wash her hair, before lifting her from the ground.
Calenloth was climbing upon her white palfrey, her face was sad, eyes dull and misted from all the tears she had shed. She didn't take her eyes from the face of her daughter who stood beside Lord Elrond and Lord Erestor a few feet away among the whole of the household and Elven guests of Imladris witnessing and saying farewells to another group of their kindred who were leaving these shores. Aurelin and Calenloth had said their goodbyes earlier and there was nothing more for Calen to do now. She had tried to be strong for her daughter but had failed, wasted away by grief and on the brink of dying herself, she had made the decision to seek the ship in Mithlond and sail on to the West. For a hundred years as the Men counted them, she had held on, but could not anymore. She had seen Aurelin, or Andhúwen as she called her now, being drowned by the grief and she had been of practically no help to ease her pain of loosing her father. And now Andhúwen was about to see her mother for the last time for a long while, the time for their next meeting uncertain. Calenloth had asked for Aurelin's forgiveness for leaving her alone in Middle-earth to sail away, and her good-hearted daughter had given it in a heartbeat but Calen was still afraid that deep in her heart Aurelin was hurt by it very deeply.
Calen had talked with Elrond about her wish to leave and he had understood her. Calen's leaving echoed his wife's and with him bereft of his wife and Aurelin without both parents, he had promised Calen to look after Aurelin and treat her like a daughter. That was the only ray of light in all the darkness and shadow for Calen as she sat on her horse under the bright sun of a clear and crisp winter morning. The palfrey made a few sidling steps in the powdery freshly-fallen snow, but Calenloth restrained her with a soft touch.
The host of the Elves began to move and Calenloth twisted on the horse to raise a hand in farewell, her gaze never leaving Aurelin's. Those two pairs of green eyes, both sets wonders in themselves, were locked for long until Calen disappeared behind the bend in the road.
Aurelin felt utterly alone and slipped quietly away to seek solitude.
"I will come to you mother and father. We will meet again once I am released from the Halls of Mandos!" Aurelin promised, floating in the blackness. She knew that this was the time to go, everything was dulled and her spirit was tied to the body so loosely that it would only take a touch of a butterfly's wing to set her free, the touch, or her decision.
But then something changed. She had thought until then of the pain in the sense of how it disturbed the memory-pictures, of it being somewhere around her, but not connected to her body or radiating from one place. She had forgotten the house of her spirit alltogether but she remembered it now and it made her become aware of it. Though as through cotton, the torment of the wound stunned her almost hard enough to slam her consciousness right back out and whispered the command to sever the link between spirit and body. But something she heard, made her bear the pain. A voice.
"Aurelin, we are here! You will be alright, help is here!"
She knew this voice.
Well, she was beyond help now! Gilgaer?! Farewell! No, there was something.... I love him and I never had the chance to tell him that.
Thinking of Laswing made her remember their first meeting. "May the stars bless our meeting!"
Indeed they had - he had brought her out of her grief and loneliness.
"There are many others who know of the deeds of that time maybe better but I haven't met them." - "You have not asked me," he had told her with a smile. "Do not ever say that I am resembling Fëanor or any of his kin ever again! Because of his sons my family had to flee, they ruined Doriath! His sons slew my aunt, my uncle and two cousins. The sons of Fëanor killed my brother by causing my mother to fall down a cliff when she was expecting. Never compare me to any of that cursed family!"
"Watch after me, take care of me. Is that all you have to say? Just to look after me! Of course, what does poor Aurelin need but someone to hold her hand every step of the way?"
"Now I understand what Elrond said about your temper being like quicksilver. You remind me of Fëanor and his anger."
"Do not ever say that I am resembling Fëanor or any of his kin ever again! Because of his sons my family had to flee, they ruined Doriath! His sons slew my aunt, my uncle and two cousins. The sons of Fëanor killed my brother by causing my mother to fall down a cliff when she was expecting. Never compare me to any of that cursed family!"
She had been furious with him. Again she saw herself pacing in front of the big fireplace with Laswing looking calm and composed while she was drowning in rage and disappointment. He had helped her see her error in thinking it just his pity of her and a carefully laid plan.
"Do you really have that little faith in yourself that you would think that all this was because of Elrond? He set the path before me but it was I who started to walk down it. You already have a lot more knowledge of history than some others that I know. You are wiser than your years show and it was for your company and your sincere wish to learn about everything that I kept looking you up here in Imladris."
And when he gave her his bow, she had made a promise. "Learn to use it so that you are able to defend yourself and don't get killed somewhere because you had too little skill. That is all I ask." - "I promise too keep this bow and myself well and whole."
How could she fail him on this promise? Giving into pain and longing for her parents to stop fighting for her life would be letting Laswing down, and how could she do that!
"I fell in love with him the first day I saw him, in the doorway of the Hall of Fire. I just didn't see it,"she had thought on the balcony. "Oh, Eru! How could I have been so blind? He was always there beside me." How indeed?
"The Silvershadow necklace for the Lady Aurelin Silvershadow of Mirkwood and Imladris." She was still wearing that. Aurelin could feel the fillet at the back of her neck along with Gilgaer's arms around her.
"What did you want to tell me about?"- "I...it doesn't matter now." I should have told him that day!
"I do! And I promise not to let you down. You'll see your decision to let me accompany you was not a false one!"
"I have to say something to you, in case I..." - "NO! Don't speak. You are not going to die!" - "I wanted to say it sooner. I lo..."
Mother, father, you will understand! By Elbereth and Nienna, please understand! I have to go back and tell him what I feel. There is not only grief for me in Middle-earth and longing for you, all that I hold dear does not lie in the Undying Lands anymore. The one I love is here and my friends and Lord Elrond. There is time to come to you and I should have something I have accomplished to show you when I do, something like the love of an Elf like him. I will miss you!
Aurelin gasped from the pain when her spirit returned wholly to her body and she surrendered to the darkness again welling up in her.
Laswing had gently let Aurelin rest against the neck of Elthoron and had jumped from its back. He had made it, the two horses were standing before the stables of Imladris and the stablehands were milling white-eyed around the doors, seeing the terrible face with which Gilgaer had ridden up and the wounded maiden on the horse. Gilgaer had glanced up with a burst of hope to see merry lights shining from the windows of the House but had had to whip his eyes back to Aurelin as he saw from the corner of his eye that she was beginning to slide down from the horse. He had caught her and had been about to start running with her towards Elrond's rooms when she had let out a loud gasp and bolted half-way to a sitting position. Seeing her stirring after a day full of only some agonized sounds and mutters, Gilgaer had almost dropped her in surprise. A smile had started to appear on her lips but it was cut short when she fell back into his arms. Whether she was dead or not, he dared not check as he rushed to the healers.
"What happened to her?" Elrond demanded as Gilgaer came running up the steps, taking two at the time, to his door.
"Quickly, bring her in!"
"We ambushed the Orcs but I left her side and an Orc shot her with a bow from the trees!" Laswing said miserably, looking from Aurelin to Elrond, a desperate and hungering gleam of hope shining in his eyes.
"Get her on the table! And cut away the coat!" Elrond commanded the healers that he had felt would be needed that night.
Laswing was pushed against the wall as the healers started working around the unconscious Aurelin and now his tears were falling again. He felt so useless, not being able to help and blaming himself for everything.
"I should not have left her! It is all my doing and she will die and what will I do then?" he said to no one in particular in anguish.
"Gilgaer, you have done all you could! I think it best if you leave her to us now and we will take care of her." Elrond took hold of his upper arm gently and guided Laswing to the door, past the four frantically working healers. "Do not worry, I will do everything I can to save her. But we have to move quickly or she will die! Go now!"
"I..." Laswing started but his voice broke. He threw a last lingering look at Aurelin, who was snow-white against the light brown wood of the table and the curtain before the arched window looked like a pale blue shroud that flew to cover her when it stirred in a gust of wind. He left, but not very far. Aurelin was not safe yet and nothing told him that she would live. Not knowing where his steps took him, he went to the place where a roofed terrace looked over the falls. Transfixed, his gaze was locked in the flying spray and his thoughts flitted from curses of himself to prayers to Elbereth, Nienna, Manwë and Mandos that Aurelin would live. He broke down then, let himself do that, now that he could afford it. He sagged against one of the slender pillars and let the waves of grief wash over him, like the spray did, and became wracked with sobs.
Laswing had lost all track of time in his misery when a fair-haired young Elf-maiden came to him. She stood silently behind him but when he did not acknowledge her presence, she queried softly, "My lord?" It looked to her that he wiped away tears but it would have been the spray he dried his face from. Slowly, fearing what she had to say, Laswing turned around.
"Is she dead?" he whispered.
"No! Lord Elrond sent me to tell you that the lady Aurelin was taken to her rooms. She is still unconscious but the arrow was taken from her body and the wound tended. It missed her heart by three finger's width. Lord Elrond said that she is still in danger but should recover."
For a second Laswing only stared at the girl dumbly. During all that time above the falls he had already started to grieve for Aurelin, painting pictures of the life leaving her and her fair and dead face. And now that girl said Aurelin was going to live! For a few heartbeats he was just stunned, unable to talk, move or think, as relief surged through him.
"Thank you!" he said in a cracking voice, when he was able to, it was as if life had been also given back to him. He sprang to the slender girl, Lothwen, and scooped her up in his arms. "Thank you and thank the Valar!" He swirled her around once and then dropped her gently onto her feet to rush to Aurelin. He slowed his steps behind her door and quietly stepped inside. There was no one there but Aurelin on the bed, under leaf-green covers, hair sprayed around her pale face on the pillows, the faint glow of candles set in sconces competing with the light of a cloudy night's Moon from the window beside the bed to create patterns of shadow and light on her small form. Her left shoulder was bandaged. Not daring to breathe Gilgaer walked along the wall and past the twin of the other midnight blue curtained window looking west to look down on her and stooped to lay his hand gently on her wrist to feel the assuring beat of her pulse. Gently he pushed a strand of hair from her face, lifted a chair beside her bed and sank down, surrendering to the tiredness of his body and spirit. But his duty to Aurelin was not done. He was settled his head on the back of the chair, careful to retain the full view of Aurelin's face and began his watch over her.
"I am so sorry I was not there for you, Celebrendhae!" he whispered softly. "I failed you and almost got you killed! How could you ever forgive me? Or I to myself?"
Of course Aurelin said nothing, even those feverish dreams of hers had gone and she was silent and unmoving. Laswing had to feel her pulse again to calm himself that she indeed had not quietly gone to Mandos.
He sat there, hearing the rustle of leaves and frequent calls of nightingales from the trees behind the House, and tried to think back on what he remembered of the mad race. It was not much. But he realised suddenly how he had called her - "dearest" and "my love" and "sweetheart". He had asked back there how he could live without her and he knew that was true - he could not. Could it be? He had not known it but his heart had recognised Aurelin as the one he would pledge himself to. As Men reckoned, Laswing knew that he was quite ancient, younger that the Shipwright of course but born before the Teleri went to Valinor nonetheless. His friends had long joked how he had not found the maid he loved yet and he had guessed that his true one was waiting him in Valinor. He had accepted it as truth but now he saw that it had made him blind to what was before his nose and eyes. The young girl he had met and taught like a tutor a pupil was the one. Oh Elbereth, even his name! Nieninqe, his mother, had named him Lindil - Lover of Singing, Devoted to Song. Nieninqe's foresight had been true - Aurelin meant Song of Sunlight, he had been destined to fall in love with her and he had not seen it until she had almost been taken from him. How would matters be if he had been wiser to recognise his feelings? How did she feel about him? It was clear that she was his friend but so far she had not indicated that she felt more than friendship and she was always so impulsive that he felt sure she'd have told him. Though she had tried so desperately to say something to him as she believed she was going to die. What could have been urgent enough to speak of while she was tormented by a grievous wound?
Though in his heart he yearned to declare his love to her the second she opened her eyes, his mind reasoned that that would not be wise. Laswing would take no chances with her wellbeing now and his desire to hear her answer to his feelings, he would suppress. He would surrender to whatever Aurelin told him. If she did not return his love, he would be her friend and sworn protector until he should be slain, waiting nothing in return but her friendship and the chance to be close to her, but he also knew that if that was the case, there would be no spouse for him, even beyond the end of Arda.
He started to talk to her softly when all his thoughts were in order, holding her right hand between both of his as the sun climbed west and the song of newly-woken birds announced a new morning:
"Remember when we met. I had just come to Imladris and when I met you, I thought you were the most beautiful maid with the most incredible eyes I had ever seen..."