Shadow and Silver: The Story of Aurelin - Chapter 25
Here's the previous chapter: Chapter 24
Disclaimer: I am only borrowing from JRR Tolkien's wonderful work and making no money . I do however claim ownership of Aurelin, Laswing, Calenloth and Belegorn.
A/N: I do apologise for the length of this chapter but I did not feel like cutting it in two, besides it could not be done without one part being very short and the other still long. So, I hope this does not taunt you from reading!
After seven and seventy years of the Sun matters were so different that Aurelin found it hard to believe that less than half of the year as the Elves counted them had gone by. Sauron had openly declared his presence in Mordor, his servants led by the Úlairi were beleaguering Gondor, evil creatures were heard of wrecking damage everywhere more and more often.
At her home changes had been many as well. One of those, a pleasant one, had been Master Bilbo coming to live in Imladris, looking amazingly young when he arrived but aging in a rate that as Aurelin had gathered was times more quicker than what was usual for Men or Hobbits.
To Estel his heritage and lineage had been revealed and at the hour of sunset the next day something happened that was to cause distress to the whole family. Aragorn had met Arwen, who had just returned from Lothlórien. At first no one knew of that but it had not taken long for Elrond to read the heart of his foster-son. Once her father knew, Arwen talked of the meeting from her point of view to Aurelin and it had chilled the latter's heart to see the Evenstar's face lit up when she spoke of young Aragorn. It was not love yet but he had captured Arwen's warm attention, something no Elf had managed so far - to have Arwen speak his name with such obvious joy. It was not widely discussed but all who knew of Aragorn's love for Arwen and the possible return of the feelings hoped it was something that would pass. However it had not been so and the two had betrothed themselves to each other on Cerin Amroth twenty-nine years later. Aurelin still remembered the day that Elrond had heard of it - Arwen had sent her father a letter with a messenger, a letter that had rendered the Lord of Imladris silent, grieving quietly alone for a full day before he could even bring himself to speak of it to his sons.
To Elladan had fallen the task of telling Aurelin of Arwen's choice. He had asked her to join her in the gardens where he was tending an old beech and aftr he had given the tidings in his soothingly quiet and calm way, Aurelin had been to stunned to realise she had just taken off without a word, walking down a path not realising what his words had meant until she had had reached the edge of the river. Water lapping her toes had brought her to a halt and then tears had formed in her eyes and blind to all else she had darted off like a swan taking flight, seeking to escape anywhere, in the end only managing to run into Laswing, on his way back from fishing, and breaking down then and there, soaking his clothes even further with her tears and speaking incoherently about Arwen and dieing. It had just been too much - the knowledge that she could loose another one from her family. In those first awful moments she had been furious with Estel for ever meeting and falling in love with Arwen but she could not remain so for long, for her reasonable side aided by Laswing's small pushes into the direction od sensibility, told her that blame could not be laid in this on anyone's feet. Gilgaer had done much in his quiet and unnoticeable way to make Aurelin accept that they might loose Arwen, pointing out to her that it was the Evenstar's choice and love that had led her to consider leaving her people; and that it must be very hard on Arwen as well. The conversation she had had with Estel about the choice of Lúthien and her own actions had she been placed in the same situation sharply came to Aurelin. "If I had been Lúthien, I would not have chosen mortality!" he had said. The cold hand of future formed by the words of present and past brushed over Aurelin's mind. In truth she felt sad and happy for both Arwen and Aragorn. Had she not said herself that she would have considered the same if Gilgaer had been mortal? Everything and anything could be done for love.
Recent events had all together erased any misgivings Aurelin or anyone could have about the love of the mortal and half-elf. The Nine were in Eriador, worse, somewhere between Amon Sûl and Rivendell. Mithrandir had fought and escaped them. Estel had been gone from Imladris before Mithrandir arrived, and after the Istari's arrival riders had been despatched to keep their eyes on the East-West Road for Isildur's Heir and amazingly, Hobbits! Aurelin had had wished to ride out too, but both Elrond and Gilgaer Laswing had if not exactly forbidden, then sternly explained that it would be best if she stayed in Imladris when the Úlairi were somewhere close. So all she had been able to do was wave good-bye to Laswing as he had left two days ago on Elthoron, seething with resentment of the way she was being coddled. Why could she not help? It was always "Aurelin, it might be dangerous! Stay home and we can set out with calmer hearts that you are safe." Fires of Morgoth!
And then, this day Estel had come with four Hobbits and Glorfindel, one of the Perian, Bilbo's nephew Frodo, sorely hurt which distressed the old Hobbit and Frodo's three friends, along with Mithrandir and Estel very deeply. Aurelin had glimpsed the sick Hobbit for only a few moments when she had taken his washed and mended clothes to his room where Mithrandir and two of the Hobbits, Samwise and Peregrin, had been keeping their watch. Aurelin had excused herself as fast as she could, the sadness and terrible hope in the three of them bringing painful memories of her own from the time she had still hoped that her mother would recover from her loss and grief. Perhaps only now did she really realise how it had been for Gilgaer to wait for her to wake up after her near-fateful arrow-wound. At least her mother had never been in the unconscious state she had and Frodo was in.
While the Hobbits were waiting for Frodo to awake, Laswing returned safely to Imladris, much to Aurelin's relief. He had not encountered anyone while searching the lands between Amon Sûl and Imladris but he had sensed when the Nine had been banished - it had felt like an oppressive shadow at the edge of his vision and mind had evaporated. Therefore, having not found a sign of either Estel or the Periannath anyway, he had decided to head back and receive what new tidings there were.
All seemed to be holding their breath. The autumn weathers were bright and sunny if crisp and in different circumstances the Elves of the household would have been preparing for winter, gathering berries, mushrooms and herbs, smoking fish and hunting. Now even the unavoidable tasks of keeping the late-blooming flowers from being covered by yellow and red leaves was something that was done as quickly as possible and with not much thought on the process. Aurelin had found herself tying one bundle of heather thrice before she noticed it one day and every attempt of serious discussion of hers and Elanor's and Laswing's ended soon with the train of thought cut when they caught a glimpse of one of the Perian, of Elrond or Mithrandir. Estel was also very quiet about what it was all about, more often than not he spoke in some quiet corner with Arwen, holding her hands in his, as if there soon there might not be time for it and he was trying to capture and store every precious moment to strengthen him for what was to come.
Aurelin, Elladan and Elrohir with Estel were in the sword-practice area, the three teaching one after the other their individual tricks to Aurelin and delighting in defeating her when they took her on one on one. Well, she was not that awful but there was a long way for her to go to be accounted even a decent sword-fighter, and even longer to hold her own in a duel with masters such as the brothers or Estel or Gilgaer. And suddenly, while Aurelin was receiving another of the many fake-deathstrokes dealt her that morning, Pippin bounded to view up on one of the walkways of the House, looking very excited.
Estel's head whipped up. "He must be awake!" was all he said before he was off. The twins and Aurelin remained to collect the weapons, in the process of which she noticed that the leather grip of one of the practice swords needed mending.
"You go ahead!" she told the brothers and went to take the sword to the smithy behind the House. Dumping it in one of the tall baskets left by the door for items that needed the attention of the smiths, Aurelin did not dally and headed to the House, eager to hear more of the Hobbit and perhaps the errand that had brought the four there. On the last count she was soon disappointed but had not time to dwell on it long as the House was full of guests. A group of Dwarves from Erebor, Elves from Mirkwood with their Prince leading the party having arrived somewhat earlier, followed by a messenger from Círdan who sought out Gilgaer Laswing right after he had stabled his horse and had much to discuss with him so that Aurelin saw little of Laswing for the next hours; and finally late that night a Man from Gondor, grave and proud but weary, came. Anxiety was spinning a tense web in the air when all the guests and household ate together - talk flowed easily but tension was palpable not the least due to Mirkwood Elves and Dwarves from Erebor being together in one room.
But at last the waiting the household had endured for about a week was to be ended.
"Gwingloth, there shall be a council tomorrow," Laswing told her quietly that night as the two were sitting side by side in deep armchairs beside the fireplace in the Hall of Fire, one of the last people to linger there still. Aurelin raised a brow.
"Oh! Shall you attend?"
Laswing nodded. "Galdor asked me to. He is somewhat young yet and less experienced in these matters and it would be expected of me to offer my voice for the Shipwright even if he was not."
"I do not even know whether to envy you the responsibility and trust or not." Aurelin frowned and leaned over the chair-arm to pick a stray leaf from the floor to whirl it in her fingers. "Part of me would wish to be allowed to be in the council too, but another is glad that I do not have to. Does it make me squeamish of tasks that need be done?"
"Of course not!" Gilgaer lightly brushed her cheek that was hot and glowing from the fire. "I feel quite the same myself. You know that I am not particularly fond of that kind of situations. You have a way with words and with a little more experience, you would do very well in councils, provided you lost some of your temper or managed to harness it for those occasions!"
Aurelin threw him such a look of fake incredulity that Laswing could not but laugh. "Come now, dear one! Tomorrow will be a difficult day."
He took Aurelin's hand and together they stood, bid good night to Ereg, Mallorn and Tulinn, the three Elves engaged in a whispered conversation and the two Dwarves who were playing a strange game of interlocking metal rings. At Aurelin's door Gilgaer kissed her good night and waited until she closed the door with a big smile on her face and blew out the candles before entering his own room that was a few doors away, climbed onto the windowsill and drew one foot up while letting his other leg dangle to lean against the windowframe and looked at the dark mountains - despite his own advice to Aurelin his whole night passed with no dreams to soften the thoughts and worries that were trying to overwhelm his mind.
Aurelin had deliberately taken herself well away from the House and the Council, to avoid temptation. How trying it is to fear something and yet be eager to hear the tidings that could well speak of the evil that you are so frightened of. She could not really put her finger on what it exactly was that she was dreading but when the Úlairi were involved it spelled something dire. And the Perian Frodo seemed the centre of everything as incredible as it might have sounded - the worry Mithrandir and Aragorn had for him went well beyond that of friends. Something tied together the Wraiths and a Hobbit! Hobbits...something tried to push its way out of the cobwebbed corners of her mind, something she had read not long ago that had seemed incredulous to her. No use, it eluded Aurelin at the moment.
"Alagos, come on. Walk in a neat circle around me!" She was just a little way downstream from the weapons' training glade, trying to get a young Alagos to listen to her but having only erratic success at the moment.
Yes, another Alagos, though she felt as if he was one and the same with all the others. A long time ago, when she was just come of age, she had found Alagos and he her. A nasty tempered immense black horse that - incredibly - acted like a lamb with her. They had developed a deep friendship and when he was nearing the final years of his full-strength, Aurelin had let him go, to live where and how he liked, free from stables and roofs and people. And in about six years another black steed of difficult temper had found her and Aurelin recognised it as a scion of Alagos. So the cycle had went on for hundreds of years and all the midnight-horses were named Alagos and she scarcely made a difference between them, so alike they were. However that meant that for some years between the good-bye with the old Alagos and welcome to the young one, she had no particular horse of her own and furthermore, had to train the young Alagos' when they came to her. Which was what she was trying to do now and discovering once more that it was not an easy task.
"Alagos, no! Don't go off now!" Her cry floated on the air to Laswing as he walked down the yellow-and-red leaf-covered path and in the next moment a black giant of a horse came out of the bushes, not caring that it took half the branches with it. Gilgaer was by now used to Aurelin's strange taste in horses and as if by instinct the young Alagos' let him handle them with only the barest shows of temper, much like the old ones always had.
"I've got him!" he called out to Aurelin who had run out of the gap in the bushes the steed had made, hair wildly flying and face flushed. Standing in the middle of the path might not have been the best idea but Alagos had come crashing out so fast that Laswing had indeed been forced to do just that. But the horse had stopped before running over him and with a touch to its neck it stayed where it was, eyeing Laswing as if to appraise whether it was going to be scolded by him and promising trouble should he try.
Aurelin had slowed her pace once she saw she needed not to chase the horse all the way back to the stables or who knows where.
"Thank you!" she said to Laswing but her frown she directed at Alagos. The horse flattened its ears - Gilgaer once again wondered why the big horse would even listen to such a tiny thing as Aurelin and behave itself at a barest frown from her while loud yelling would help no one else.
His fond look at the back of Aurelin's head switched to a joking one. "Is it a new kind of teaching? "Free-rain", "do-what-you-will"?"
"Easy for you to laugh!" Aurelin retorted, still looking at the horse. "He knows what I ask him to do but he is in the stage when he just does not do it for fun. What am I to do with you!" Exclaiming over-dramatically she produced a slice of bread from a pocket and gave it to Alagos. Patting the horse's silky midnight neck, she turned to smile at her betrothed and take his hand. Slowly the three started to walk back the way Laswing had come.
Aurelin threw Gilgaer a brief searching look. "Am I allowed to ask what unfolded in the Council?"
"You can ask but I have to think how much I can or want to reveal." The change in Laswing's face and tone of voice made Aurelin uneasy. Was the war upon them at last? Was Imladris to be attacked? Mirkwood? Gondor already had to endure Sauron's assaults, whose lot had been drawn now?
Gilgaer must have sensed Aurelin's sinking heart from the way she was staring at a patch of fir-clad mountains, face deathly still and pale. It would have befit his state to do the same but he had to be stronger, for Aurelin at least.
"I see I have distressed you." He said quickly and transferred his hand to hug Aurelin's shoulders. She tore her gaze from the far-away peak but Gilgaer's eyes were not that comforting for there was lurking in them the knowledge of sorrow ahead. "Guessing might we worse than hearing the truth right away, am I right?" he offered finally.
Solemnly Aurelin nodded. Gilgaer took a moment to compose his thoughts.
"I do not think it will be a secret in Imladris for long, considering the number and nature of some of our guests. The Bane of Isildur has been found."
Aurelin's jaw dropped and she forgot to breathe. "What?" she squeaked.
Laswing gave a sigh, still not wanting to believe himself it was true. "Yes, it is so. The Council was held to determine what needs be done."
"Who has the Ring then, the stern Man from Gondor, not Estel that much I know, the Dwarves?"
A wry smile with no mirth in it appeared on Laswing's face as he flicked an errant strand of blonde hair from his face. "No, none of them. That might have been the biggest surprise. Frodo Baggins has it and Bilbo before him."
For once his betrothed was at a loss for words. She shook her head before letting the flood of questions out. "Him! But how can it be? What happens to him now?"
Alagos had taken leave of them once they had turned from the path that led up to the House - while the horse went to the stables, Aurelin and Laswing were walking towards the pine forest in the north. The sunshine that warmed their faces did not reach their hearts.
"It needs be destroyed, so he will go into the Enemy's lair and do exactly that." The compassion in Laswing's voice for the task of the Perian woke something in Aurelin. Slowly the spark started to grow into a tiny flame. Gilgaer was assisting her in climbing up a steep slope and the first lone sentinels of the forest of the pines appeared here and there on left and right as they made their way on.
"Who will go with him?" Aurelin queried and hugged herself to keep the mental cold out. For once Laswing did not notice her discomfort.
"That is not decided yet, besides his friend Samwise. I do not think the group will be large - stealth, not numbers, are needed in that task."
"Will you go?" Aurelin asked him in a very small voice, fearing the answer.
"No! No, I do not think I will be chosen."
Aurelin's head had whipped to study his eyes at his emphatic denial. "You would not go if you were?"
They had reached the solid tree-line that marked the beginning of the forest. Aurelin had stopped and leant against one of the sun-warmed boles, leaving Gilgaer to study the shadows and dapples of sunlight under the trees.
"It would not be my place to decline but I would not wish to go, you are right."
Laswing saw Aurelin's shocked face but he had thought he really needed not to explain himself to her, could she not see?
"For one, I would not wish to leave you alone in a time of utmost peril and you could scarcely believe you would be allowed to go. Secondly, I do not think for this task someone like me or say Glorfindel will be chosen. It seems all the kindreds will want to be part of the quest and therefore someone of many years, experiences and possible prejudices will not be suitable."
"I think there is more to it!" Aurelin's green eyes were boring into his brown and she had a weird sort of twisted victorious look on her face. "Why did you not suggest helping them in another way? Gondor would welcome all hands that could bear weapons."
"That will not be our place." Laswing was growing ever more uncomfortable for Aurelin was firing herself up and a fight was in the air. That temper of hers!
"Just what I thought!" Satisfaction shone on her pale face as she turned it a little so that the Sun was not in her eyes. "You told me, Eriant, what you thought of the matter years ago. We have no business in the affairs of Middle-earth anymore, is that it? We should just let everything unfold as it will and sail away! I cannot believe it!"
"What would you have the Eldar do?" Laswing demanded quietly from her, laying a calming hand on her arm. "Ride in full strength to Gondor? Can you not guess that we will come under attack too? Sauron will not satisfy himself with battling with Minas Tirith this time, he wants the dominion of the whole of Endor. Do you call it letting everything unfold and just watching by? But I do stand where I did - this is a matter that needs be solved by the Men."
"I guess you will say that our responsibility ended when Isildur took the Ring? I am right, am I not? Flawed Secondborn who brought this upon themselves and have to deal with it now! Even if there was no threat to us, you would still not go to aid them."
Her hair was like a coppery fire and her words venomous. Gilgaer knew better than to try and cut her off now. All he could do was watch her with steady and calm eyes, offering his defence would get him nowhere at the moment. Besides, she was twisting what he thought, but the essence was there, she just would not let herself see his point of view. Her next words bit more deeply.
"If they are so unworthy of the help of the Elves and so weak, can you then abide to be betrothed to me? Did not my cousin's son choose to be accounted among the Edain? Am I not kin to Estel? I must seem tainted to you!"
"Gwingloth! Stop it!" Not thinking Aurelin had spit out those words and only realised what she had said when Gilgaer was gripping her shoulders painfully and shaking her. "Come to your senses! How can you speak of me like that? You know how I feel about you! Think before you open your mouth and do not put words into mine! You are not tainted and I have for your kin, both mortal and Elf, the highest regard. I always have had. Stop lashing out at those you love when they do not agree with you!"
Her eyes were still too bright but she was looking at his tunic-front, at the waves she herself had embroidered on it, biting her lip and taking deep breaths.
"Aurelin, I thought you were not a child anymore but this..." Laswing did not finish. He had a firm hold on her arm and he propelled her to start walking back down the path to the House. He willed her to say anything but the whole way they passed in silence, Aurelin with a sullen face and Gilgaer with a decidedly heavier heart than the one he had climbed up there with.
When they reached the doors, Peregrin was there, talking to a grey-bearded Dwarf and Legolas, having caught sight of Aurelin, was clearly waiting a little way from the Perian and Dwarf with another green-clad Elf for her to come and speak with him -both of them knew Aurelin from the time she had grown up in Mirkwood and tagged along the older Elves, seeking for someone to fill the place of the older brother she had been robbed of. Aurelin nodded to the Prince, turned to Laswing and raised on tip-toe to kiss him lightly. A tear of shame and sorrow was in her eye but she spoke no words when she left Gilgaer standing there to look at her retreating form before he was claimed by Glorfindel to discuss the division and naming of the scouts to search for the Nine.
*** I regret the words I spoke carelessly and would seek your forgiveness. With all my heart I hope you will grant it. Take care of yourself! I love you (though you might find it hard to believe it after what I have done)! ~Aurelin Gwingloth
However, those untrue accusations aside, I know your thoughts on what the finding of the Bane of Isildur means for Elves differs greatly from my opinion. There is no reconciling for the difference is like to the Sea that is between Ennor and Valinor. You would never agree to what I am going to do and perhaps that gap shows something of us. I regret that I have to write this down and not speak to you in person but you would detain me and deny me the path I wish to follow. Please, do not try to come after me to take me back! I would be grateful if you could make my excuses to Lord Elrond.
I regret the words I spoke carelessly and would seek your forgiveness. With all my heart I hope you will grant it.
Take care of yourself! I love you (though you might find it hard to believe it after what I have done)!
She folded the piece of parchment, poured purple wax where the points came together and pressed her betrothal ring onto it to seal the missive. Aurelin was sitting behind her writing-table, in travelling clothes with a bag by the table-leg. She had waited until the early hours of morning, when even the biggest lovers of tales had retired from the Hall of Fire and no one was about. The only sounds were those of wind rustling the trees and leaves falling to the ground to be blown around in fancy patterns.
She had avoided Gilgaer the whole evening, raising quiet comments from the residents of Imladris and questions from Elanor, Estel and Elrond. During dinner they had sat side by side, not exchanging a word and seemingly oblivious to the other's existence, in truth both waiting for the other to look at or speak first.
Aurelin blew out the scented candle, rose, took her cloak from the back of the chair and donned it, quietly pushed the chair under the table and went to give the last smoothing to the coverlet of her bed. With a sigh of finality she took the letter in one hand, her bag, that had been furnished with food "borrowed" from the kitchens and a few necessaries from her rooms, in the other and without another look at the moon-flooded room, she went outside.
A plan had started to form itself in her head and she was determined to follow it through. At least that is what she said to herself. A crack sounded unnaturally loud in the night. Aurelin cursed silently - what kind of an Elf was she if she did not even manage to avoid a dry branch! She had frozen on the spot but when no lights were lit nor anyone had come to inquire who was out so late, she let herself breathe again. A few more steps took her to Laswing's door. Face fixed in a mask, she knelt to push the letter under it and came to her feet again. It had been a good plan - to just leave the letter and go off. So why did she suddenly feel as if crying and unable to move? With her free hand she covered her mouth and stood poised like a statue with eyes closed, fighting with herself. All had seemed so clear in her mind until now that she came to the actual leaving - she knew why she did it and had the destination in mind. However the proximity to Gilgaer had woken quite different thoughts that spelled "hasty", "unnecessary", "silly" and "dishonest".
Without realising it she moved to the balustrade of the walkway that run all around the House and slid to sit with her back to one of the carved columns with its rowan berries digging into her back.
Laswing had always had the ability to bring out the sensible side of Aurelin - rant and rave she might but when he spoke to her she had always calmed to see the things from a different angle. Today, well yesterday, she had not let herself come close to him to sway her opinions for she had been rock-sure she was right. Yet when he lay just behind the door asleep, Aurelin could not but feel that perhaps she had been too hasty.
In the end she warred with herself for over an hour while growing stiff from the biting wind. Forehead on her up-drawn knees, she did not notice the little light that had been lit to shine from the gap between the door and the threshold, nor a shadow moving across it or that the letter was removed.
Finally Aurelin reached a decision - it was cold and she was in no state to fix on anything - being torn like that was a clear indication of it. She rose slowly clutching at the rail and groaned softly when flexing her muscles to make them obey her. Why did she have to push that letter so far inside? She could have taken it back otherwise.
Whether she was numbed by the wind or something else but she did not see the flickering line of light as if someone paced before it inside the room. Grimly she hefted the bag over her shoulder and headed towards the kitchens to avoid being caught with supplies to last her a week in wilderness.
A soft thud. And before Aurelin could react to the fast steps that came from behind her, she was grabbed none too gently, the bag thrown carelessly to one side and she pinned by strong hands against the wall of the porch.
"Where to do think you are going?"
Aurelin ceased her weak struggling when Laswing spoke the strangled words in anguish that pierced the heart.
"Nowhere. Let me go!" The defiance in her voice was half-hearted.
"Not before you explain yourself to me!" He could not let go of her, for then she would just trickle from his fingers like water or slip away like an eel, in her stubborness to run away to just because he said not to. Aurelin's face was inches from his as he looked down on her and from her shiver he knew that this was one time she did not want to be so close to him. "Are you leaving me and your people? To ride into danger alone? If your letter is any indication you seem to think that you will not and do not want to see my point of view, ever. "Perhaps that gap shows something of us." What did you mean by that, Aurelin? Are you saying that it will never work between us and you wish to be free from the betrothal? Answer me!"
She gulped once. "No, I...You don't understand."
"I never did, I thought you made it clear in you missive!" Laswing knew he was shaking more than Aurelin but the cold words of the letter had undone him in a way he never had believed himself capable of anymore. He had woken for no apparent reason and lit a light only to see a letter by his door. In Aurelin's fancy handwriting it had delivered matter-of-factly a good-bye.
Aurelin drew a ragged breath and all but whispered. "When I wrote the letter I meant to go. But...I do not wish for the betrothal to be ended." The last was said in a tone of a small child, followed by a sniff.
Gilgaer's hands unlocked from the grip he had on her upper arms. He took a step back and gazed at the miserable and dishevelled Aurelin unblinking. She raised her eyes to his in shame and tried to search for any indication of what Laswing felt from the brown depths but he was as unreadable as a book in Khuzdûl. To get it over with quickly she spoke in a flood.
"I meant to go by the Pass of Caradhras and past Lothlórien to Rohan. I heard from Legolas that Mithrandir had mentioned there was trouble there with the King. I could have gone there to keep an eye on things unobtrusively or perhaps aid. I slid the letter under your door but then I could not go, I just sat down and could not move. All the things you have said to me came back and I .... I could not go."
"Not Gondor! Sweet Varda, I would never have found you!" Laswing breathed. Then, "Unobtrusively? You? What were you thinking?
Wretchedly Aurelin outlined her plan while wringing her hands. "I did learn the language of the Rohirrim from a book in the library here. I could have said I was a refugee from the Westemnet near the border of Gondor and that my mother was one of the people of Stoningland to explain my looks. I am short for an Elf, so I could pass as a Rohan woman fairly and I could have used some name like Linwyn, even my hair would not be a great oddity..."
Laswing was studying the top of her head in unbelief. "And your eyes? Aurelin, you could not have hidden your eyes for ever and even one of the people of Eorl who has never seen an Elf must guess you to be one when he saw yours. Hundreds of years are mirrored there, not a few over twenty."
" I know I am stupid and childish and that I was wrong! You do not need to spell it out to me! I was on my way to the kitchens when you grabbed me, to return the food." Tears flowing down her cheeks, Aurelin was wondering how anyone had not come to ask what was the matter for they were making enough noise to wake if not a Dwarf, then an Elf for sure. But thankfully she was wrong or the few ears that had picked up the voices had also gathered that it was a quarrel that would brook no interference.
"So you are not going?" Did she herself know what she was doing, Laswing wondered for he was quite confused by now.
Aurelin shook her head once. Awkwardly the two stood until Laswing broke the frozen moment.
"I am sorry if I hurt you but I could not let you just run away, for you seemed to be doing exactly that! You are not stupid, only too impulsive."
Aurelin did not hear, for she was nearing total despair in herself. "Why do you not want me to go, Laswing? I do not mean only to war in the south - you never even let me accompany you when you go scouting or after an Orc band."
"I wish to keep you safe. You remember what happened when you came with me, do you not? And as to the current situation - I told you - there will be no reason to go in search of battle, it is a fair chance it will come to us." Gilgaer reached a hand out to Aurelin but she drew away.
"Is that all? In the letter," for a moment she stopped to swallow to work moisture into her mouth enough to go on, "when I spoke of the gap. You see things differently than I and you have had so many years to form your opinions... Are you ashamed of me?"
"What!?" Gilgaer gaped at her. What could she aiming at with that impossible turn of thoughts?
"I know I am not like most of the elven maidens. It is not usual for us, elleths, to be riding out to battle or skirmish with sword and bow at the ready and fire burning in our eyes. Elleths are healers and craftspeople, they love beauty and life and do not take it. But I cannot heal, you know that, so I am not able to lose the power to do so, should I take up arms. It is unconventional and must seem as unsuitable, especially for you who have seen those traditions come to be in the first place. Do you refrain me from ever venturing out from Imladris to scout because of that - because you wish your future wife to be at home dealing with beautiful crafts and flowers, songs and scrolls?"
By the end of her tirade she knuckled her eyes like a child and Gilgaer drew her fragile sobbing form to him. Her arms crept around Laswing and her tears formed wet splotches on his loose linen shirt. One of Gilgaer's arms was around her waist while his other hand stroked her hair.
"My sweet sweet Gwingloth! You silly lovely woman! Has that bothered you all this while? Why did you never speak of it?" He laid his hand under her chin to raise her face from being pressed against his chest, brushed away tears from her cheeks, finally settling the hand to caress the back of her neck. "I love you as you are. Yes, you can be trying sometimes but then, which of us is not?"
She gave him a crooked smile and laid her hand on his heart while the other tightened her hold on him.
"Gwingloth, it was not a matter of being unhappy with your wish to go scouting that always held me back, but the love and fear of losing you."
Her eyes were still shadowed and blurred by the tears, but fortunately there was no need for sight in order to slide her hand in his hair shining silver-gold in the moonlight when she felt his lips moving from her brow to her temple, to the cheek and neck, ending the path on her mouth.
"Convinced now?" Laswing murmured against her lips when the long kiss ended and Aurelin felt him smile before he drew a few inches away, that with obvious difficulty. "As a matter of fact I was to ask you to come with me to search for any sign of the Nine Riders. Elrond is sending people out in practically all directions and I thought you might like to be with me this time."
"Is this an effort to still allow me a spoonful of cherry jam when a honey cake has been denied me?" The way Gilgaer was playing with a strand of her hair that kept falling to her eyes and over her lips made concentrating very difficult. "Are you trying to reconcile me with not being able to go to Rohan after all?"
Gilgaer still wore the smile. "Let us just say I do it for the both of us! But it seems we both have to ride out with barely any sleep." He turned Aurelin to look out to the east where the Sun was a finger's width over the mountains, bathing them golden and crimson - the two had been too engrossed with each other to notice the first rays.
She shaded her red-rimmed eyes and then wriggled back to press half her face against Laswing's soaked shirt-front.
"Well, at least my bag is packed!" she said in a dead-serious tone when her eye alighted on its battered form laying in the middle of the porch. Laswing burst out laughing.