Shadow and Silver: The Story of Aurelin - Chapter 26
Here is the previous chapter: Chapter 25
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.
The day following the Council of Elrond became the turning-point in Aurelin's life and also made Gilgaer reconsider what harm best intentions can do. He had seen that his endeavours to keep Aurelin safe had failed miserably with her assuming that there was anything wrong with her wanting to ride out to errands that demanded fighting. To Gilgaer it had seemed like the best thing he could do - to leave Aurelin innocent of the evil in the world - but it had rebounded and made him realise that he had to loosen his protective hold on her or lose her.
While at the same time for Aurelin her foolish but negated escapade to Rochand was, while the biggest, at the same time the last act that could be conceived to be truly childish. The change was evident when she came back from the scouting trip she went on with Laswing - still impatient with a quick and changeful temper, Aurelin's restraint on herself was stronger and she even held herself more confidently, having recieved the confirmation she had not known she had desperately needed that Laswing did indeed accept her as she was. Frequently she had started to ride out in the scouting parties and Gilgaer had to accede that she did not get herself slain, nor as sorely hurt as on her first mission, besides - it felt good to have her by his side when it came time to draw weapons.
Aurelin's newfound independence - and that was exactly what it was for the two understood that she had become too dependent on Gilgaer - had even brought on her settling in Eryn Lasgalen. There were many reasons for that. When Elrond had left, Aurelin had felt the loss of the only constant in her life since she was some three hundred years old very deeply and not even Celeborn, her mother's uncle, could fill that place when he came to dwell in Imladris. For some years being able to spend more time with the closest relative she had left in Ennor was enough, however when word came from the Wood of Greenleaves that the ranks of the Sindar in the forest were thinning due to a lot of them following their prince Legolas to Ithilien (and doubtless their ever-growing yearning for the Sea was as strong as their loyalty and love for the Prince) and King Thranduil felt the loss of them sharply. Though Aurelin did not compare herself to the advisors, warriors, scouts, lore-masters and craftspeople the King had had to see leave, she did feel in her heart the need to give something back to the place where she had been born and spent her childhood. It had been painful for both Aurelin and Laswing to know that in all his comings and goings, she would not be waiting for him in Imladris but away over the Mountains. In truth they became much like the Sun and the Moon, though they did meet somewhat more often - both were travelling to and from Imladris and occasionally they either happened or made arrangements to be there at the same time.
The group of the Elves from Eryn Lasgalen climbed higher up the hill to the House while chatting with the Elves of Imladris who had come to the ford over Bruinen to meet them, having had received a messenger hawk announcing the arrival not long after lunchtime. Old friends met and greeted each other exuberantly, and new friends were made for in those waning years of the Elves, every and any one of their kindred was regarded with much more feeling than in the previous Ages.
The message bearers were led to the Hall of Fire where they would be settled to rest from the journey and take refreshment. Aurelin slipped away from them into the dark and star-studded Iavas night.
She went round the corner of the House, taking the walkway bordering the garden filled with warm tones of red and pink and yellow at this time of year. She was searching for anyone who could deliver a message, taking care not to be seen by the certain someone she was making all that effort to avoid at the moment. It was hard for Aurelin to contain her thrill - her eyes were throwing sparks and her steps were more like to skipping or dancing.
When she heard steps coming towards her, she hurriedly ducked into an alcove of the house. Recognising the golden locks and nightingale voice singing a snatch of a song under her breath, Aurelin darted back to the middle of the pathway and with a large smile on her face spread her arms wide to give the startled Elanor a hug.
"Aurelin, my dear! I guessed you may be among the travellers from Eryn Lasgalen for it has been a while since you were here. You have been missed."
The shrewd look in Elanor's eyes proclaimed that she did not mean only herself. Aurelin's heart made a leap and unnecessarily she said "Yes, I am here again at last" while trying to stay the tremor of anticipation.
"I shall not inquire right now what has transpired in your life all these months, there will be time for that. Aurelin, you must be anxious to meet someone else."
"Is it so obvious?" Aurelin beamed like a daisy in a summer day at her friend. "Is he here? I was afraid that maybe he'd have gone back to Mithlond again and I cannot stay here for more than six days, so I would not see him. Is he?"
"Torturing you about it would be too cruel, I think," Elanor laughed and gave Aurelin's hand a reassuring and "commiserating" squeeze. "Yes, as a matter of fact Gilgaer came back on the last day of Ethuil, appearing dripping wet behind our door, bringing word of another three ships setting sail in Mithlond and more importantly expecting to find you here for the celebration of the beginning of Summer. He has been here all this time and truth to tell the disappointed look in his eyes that has made him appear like a lost puppy, has gotten depressing. Aurelin, dear, you should take more care not to promise you will be here when you are not! You will waste away that strapping and light-hearted Falathrim! He went hunting but I am sure, he was due to come back at about now."
Aurelin had hung her head in acknowledgement of a misdeed - it had pained her that she could not be spared from emissary duty to Erebor but the relationship between the Elves of Thranduil and the People of the Mountain had always been strained and they had had need of her.
"You are right - I should have somehow gotten word to him sooner. But you cannot know how glad I am that he has remained so long - I hoped it would be so but dared not to at the same time!" The sunny smile wormed its way back onto Aurelin's face as she smoothed her hair and fingered her necklace and betrothal ring.
"Could you do me a favour?" she asked and drew Elanor to sit on the delicate bench in the alcove. "I'll write a....." the rest was exchanged as whispers between the two ellith. Their secret council done, Elanor took Aurelin to her and her husband's set of rooms to freshen up while she went to get the dress and cloak, that the two ladies had agreed would be most stunning in the silvery light of the half-moon and setting of the little ruse, from Aurelin's wardrobe.
After soaking in a bath of rose-oil for an hour, Aurelin emerged smelling like a spicy rose-garden. Elanor helped her with her hair - braiding some of it and twisting and knotting them into difficult patterns that rippled down the whole length of the coppery cascade, some loose strands were also left to curl around Aurelin's pale face and wide green eyes. The dress had been made for the celebration of the founding of the Elven realm in Ithilien - the underdress of black with silver flowers all over it, with a train and trailing sleeves that opened in the back of her hands and overdress the colour of young leaves, with straps and a shorter train. Over it all she put on a silver grey silk velvet cloak with a hood that fell in soft folds to her shoulders. The moonstone on her forehead glinted with a light of its own and she had her hand on the necklace she was never seen without as she stood in front of Elanor's mirror.
"Go and dazzle him!" Elanor grinned at Aurelin's back as she walked out of the door and Aurelin looked over her shoulder but was unable to articulate any thoughts so Elanor made a shooing movement with her hand. Aurelin nodded and glided off to the place where she and her love had declared their love - the little circular roofed terrace above the falls. The flying spray was as crisply sweet on her face as ever as she sat down on the bench and took care to hide her dress under the long cape. Facing outwards to look over the water to the folding mountain ranges with their pine and fir woods and back to anyone who would approach by the garden-way, Aurelin waited.
Gilgaer had just returned from a long and tiring hunt to put an end to a bear causing worries for those who happened to stray further up the northern mountainside from the House when he saw a little note on the table in his room, requesting him to come to the garden above the falls. The note was unsigned and he had no idea who could have written it for the handwriting was unfamiliar. There was a commotion of some sort in the Hall of Fire but he did not know the cause for he had come to change into clean clothes and stow away his weapons straight away. With a sigh Laswing set out for the garden after hurriedly dressing in a fresh tunic, shirt and breeches of black and silver, tired and anxious to get something to eat. "By the fires of Morgoth!" he muttered, annoyed to be the object of a prank of someone's for there appeared to be no one there when he got to the moon-lit garden, the greenish black towering shapes of trees mysterious in the night and whispering their joy at the warm breeze. About to leave, Gilgaer let his gaze slide over to the place that had so sweet memories for him in the far side of the garden and to his surprise found the bench occupied, doubtless by none other than the one he was supposed to meet.
"I hope it is not one of Círdan's messengers summoning me to Mithlond again. I have not been here that long!" he murmured to himself and walked closer to the one sitting.
"I was asked to come here, I assume by you," he called out when he was ten paces from the cloaked figure. No answer came.
"Greetings! Do you have something to speak with me?" This was strange - the cloaked person did not react in any way to indicate it had heard him.
"Are you even listening to me? Is it my imagination or is here someone who should say something in reply? A shadow left by the Moon perhaps?" Laswing was trying to turn it to joking but he was getting more curious by the moment and his patience was dissipating like smoke on a windy day in Edoras, "Who are you, answer me!" Gilgaer strode up to the bench, regretting than in the hurry to come to this cursed meeting he had forgotten to re-don his dagger.
The figure slowly stood and still there was nothing that he could see besides the many folds of the cloak. For a heartbeat there was only stillness from the mysterious person and then whoever it was turned around, face frustratingly still hidden by the hood.
"If this is one of you, children, I will..." he grinned, sure it was some of the younger Elves of Imladris, playing a joke on him, for the cloaked figure was clearly short and slight.
Aurelin had tried to keep as still as stone when she had heard footsteps coming towards her. A silly smile had plastered itself on her face and her eyes were not actually seeing the spray of rushing water before her once she heard Laswing's voice. Having decided to surprise him, she was not going to spoil it for it was way too amusing. Aurelin knew him so well that she was sure he'd think this someone's joke and was determined to go along with it. She did her best to wipe the smile of her face and present a solemn visage when she finally turned around and raised her head, first slipping the hood from her head and then allowing the cloak to fall to the grey-veined flagstones. It all resulted in her facing the Elf she loved more than anyone else, currently his I-caught-you grin turning to utter surprise. Then a large smile appeared on his face that she answered, all thoughts of composure gone.
"Aurelin, my love!" Gilgaer exclaimed and got the wind knocked out of him as she ran into his open arms.
"Laswing, Laswing, I missed you so!" Aurelin had tears of joy sparkling in her emerald green eyes as she looked up at him. "Did you like the surprise?"
"Oh, Silvershadow, that is so like to you! To come here unannounced and then play deaf and dumb with me," Gilgaer laughed aloud, the mischievous light that Aurelin loved so much twinkling in his brown eyes. She raised on tiptoe and he took one arm from around her waist to bury it in her hair while lowering his head. The next minutes were a daze to both while they kissed, exchanged endearments and the usual talk of lovers that does not make sense to anyone else.
"When did you come back, my little jewel? I was waiting for you for a long time and I had almost given up hope, deciding that if the Lady would not come to the Elf, he would have to do it himself. I longed for you every minute of every day we were apart. Remind me again why you left in the first place." Laswing asked her while he sat down with her on bench, their arms still locked around each other.
"You know why! Eryn Lasgalen is a home to me as much as Imladris and I went to see my friends and do my duty to my Lord, the last I have on these shores. You have to come and go between here and Mithlond as well. We talked about this before and you agreed with me." Aurelin rested her head on his shoulder and revelled in being able to breathe the familiar mingled forest and sea scent of his hair.
"I had never been so long without you, how was I to know it would be so awful?"
"You didn't?" Aurelin said with a mock-shocked widening of the eyes.
Gilgaer was running his right hand down her spine and then up again, delighting in the way Aurelin reacted to that. "All right, I did. But one thing is to think about something, the other to live it. How long will you be staying?"
"We have to start the return journey next week to arrive in time for the visit of Prince Legolas."
Gilgaer's hand came to a standstill and his left grasped Aurelin's waist more emphatically. "That soon! Aurelin Gwingloth Celebrendhae, my lovely betrothed and the love of my life, are you trying to imply that you are only here for a few days?"
"Yes, my dearest Gilgaer Laswing Eriant, I am. And I know you have to be in Lindon in a short time no doubt, so everything will be back to the way it was."
"The idea of being wedded not before we go to Valinor seems a very unwise one right now if it means we meet so little. Which one of us came up with it?"
"I think it was...." Aurelin shifted for a more comfortable position and batted her eyelashes at him.
"Do not answer that, it was a rhetorical question!" Laswing retorted quickly.
"It is just that right now it feels right for me to be in the Wood of Greenleaves despite the pain of being there without you. I wish you could come with me but I know you have duties to Círdan and cannot." Aurelin put a hand over his heart, " I love you with all my heart and want to be with you always and forever. I am not planning on disappearing anywhere so we will have time until the End of Arda to be together."
Gilgaer kissed her forehead. "Life has taught you well, some time ago you would not have spoken like that. Let us just enjoy the moments we have then!"
And Aurelin began to talk of all that had befallen her during the time the two hadn't seen each other and in turn listened to all the stories Laswing (who insisted of wrapping her bare feet inside her cloak though she did not feel the least bit cold) had to relate of how Elladan and Elrohir were managing with the upkeep of Rivendell and how Celeborn had went to Mithlond for a time to reacquaint himself with the lands and few remaining people he once ruled in Harlindon.
Aurelin and Laswing had talked and talked well into the morning and the dawn-light found them still in the gardens talking as if they had not seen each other for a century. But when Aurelin was stifling a yawn while reciting the latest tidings from Laketown, Laswing plopped her down from his lap.
"You are tired, my love! Come!"
Hand in hand they walked down the gravel-path to the House and Aurelin's room. Gilgaer busied himself with reordering her messy book-shelf while Aurelin changed into a night-gown behind the screen embroidered by herself years ago displaying the halls of Menegroth.
Laswing turned to her when he heard her approaching the bed behind him.
"You look more stunning now if that is possible!" The simplicity of the silken gown and her loose hair was more entrancing than the complexity of the under and over-dresses and hairstyles Aurelin favoured. Her smile was somewhat perplexed but pleased all the same - clearly she had had different ideas about comparing the two outfits.
Aurelin had expected Laswing to leave as soon as she had settled under the blanket and snuggled into the pillows but instead he drew up an armchair and a chair and set them, one facing the other, beside the bed. Her raised eyebrows asked the question.
"I will watch your dreams. Do not even try to send me away!" he said emphatically and sank into the armchair and hoisted up his feet onto the chair. Aurelin smiled sleepily - she had expected to have trouble going to sleep for the light shining through the curtains was, if somewhat dimmed by the cloth, still bright. Instead, she felt the dreams grabbing at her to claim her for themselves. Pushing them away from herself for the moment, she looked at Laswing looking her and then let her gaze roam down his whole length.
"You must be horribly uncomfortable!" The crooked smile on Gilgaer's face said as much. "Come! There is room here for two with enough to spare!"
Her inviting smile brought stillness to Laswing's face and he said with a forced calmness, "Silvershadow, I should not."
Aurelin stared at him in confusion and then a blush reached out its tendrils to suffuse her cheeks. "You thought...? I did not mean it like that! You will be stiff and sore for days if you try to lounge like you do now. You can do as well on the other side of the bed and escape a stiff back."
"Do you even know how trying a thing you are asking of me, Gwingloth?" Laswing's eyes were blazing and Aurelin blushed again like a rose.
"I would not mind if you yielded," she whispered throwing him a shy but at the same time daring look through her eyelashes. "But no, no do not fear! I shall do my least to tempt you - I guess I should try snoring. Having seen and heard some Dwarves sleeping, I think I could succeed in imitating them if I really tried!"
Gilgaer could not but chortle, still wary he was half-way out of the chair and on the edge of the bed.
"Lord Elrond would not approve, nor Lord Celeborn."
"Phaw! What is that to them - one is in Valinor, the other in Mithlond - nor is it their business. A space as wide as Anduin will be between us, so we are not doing anything worth even speaking of in that tone."
A delicate hand patted the pillow on the far right as Aurelin reached over to wide expanse of it. Laswing gave in with a little sigh, kicked off his boots and settled with his back against the head-board. He watched as Aurelin dug again into the blanket and pillows and turned to her left side to face him. A satisfied smile played upon her lips when she was succumbing to sleep and having reached out her hand, felt it taken into a warm and strong hand that bore the betrothal ring she had given him.
That evening the whole contingent from Eryn Lasgalen and most of the people of Imladris were in the Hall of Fire and they would convene so for the whole duration of the visit while during the other parts of the day some where here and some there, since most had special ties and people to spend time with.
Gilgaer and Aurelin entered the pleasantly hot Hall just before singing would start and she was pleased to feel that nothing had changed - Imladris was a second home to her and the Hall especially. Memories of times spent there with her family, then alone and at last with Gilgaer came flooding back.
They settled by the big fire just as the songs began. Laswing stood a little to the right of the fire-place and Aurelin was glad to lean against him, encircled by his arms, his blonde hair mingling with her copper tresses. She had not heard that particular lay about Finrod that a pretty dark-haired maiden started to chant, it must have been a new work and therefore fascinating to hear but after a while her memories won the battle for her attention. Aurelin had turned her head to gaze into the roaring orange-red fire over Gilgaer's shoulder and remained fixed like that for quite a while before she was wakened from recollections by Laswing's whisper, "What is on your mind? You did not hear the last song, did you?"
"No, I am sorry!"
Laswing tucked a strand of hair that had fallen into Aurelin's eyes caressingly behind her ear and let his fungers run down the line of her jaw. "No need to apologise to me. If you absolutely feel the need to, then you could do it to the lady Elena. But I think I know what you were thinking about."
"The time when I found out how Elrond had set you up to become a friend and tutor to me for one."
"How could I forget? You were and are so beautiful when you are angry!"
Aurelin craned her head and found the smirk she had expected from his face.
"I sometimes wonder at you behaviour for an Elf of your age, you act as though you are as old as me instead of fighting in the First Battle of Beleriand and knowing my parents."
"Well, that is what you are stuck with, I am afraid! Of course I could find you a more solemn and serious betrothed though it would take some time given the fact that these traits are not your strongest points. But I could succeed." He chuckled warmly. "I also recall another party here and the message about the Orc company. I have cursed it for so long, I should never have let you come with me. I almost lost you, you were dieing when I arrived here and got you to be healed."
"But I would have had to go on my first errand, even though it was dangerous."
"My love, that was not supposed to be. I never wanted for you to get a trial by fire. Which in turn made me so stupidly protective that I almost lost you again to your stubbornness and misinterpretation of my reasons."
"It is all over and done with. I survived and that later time...For me that day was the awakening and true coming of age, I needed that. Shh now, I can't listen to the song!" she said as if she had been the one more intent on the singing.
The new tune was taken up and the two of them began to sing along with everyone else. The words were close to both their hearts for they told of the time in the Havens before the coming of Morgoth - Aurelin had heard it from her Falas-born father and Gilgaer had lived through it.
The wonderful week was over and the weather echoed what went on in Aurelin's heart. Sun and showers of rain were intermittently exchanging one for the other, just like going back home sounded wonderful but at the same time sad because she was to leave a home as well.
The stay in Imladris had been worth many tales, though most would be only coherent for people who were in love. For Aurelin it had been a magical week and Laswing was speaking of the six days as ones he would remember beyond the End of Arda. It was as if the slightly longer time apart had brought them both back to the time they had first discovered their love for each other. Aurelin's room became filled with fresh flowers and mysterious gifts would appear on her bedside table or pillow. She had asked Gilgaer about them but he had refused to speak while wearing the face of a fox who had just been to the hen-house. During the hours of sunlight they walked in the gardens and went riding outside Rivendell as they had always done. He even had her practice her bow-skills and knife fighting with him to see if what he had taught her was still in her bones and Aurelin had been glad to oblige him. The evenings and nights had been equally filled with good food, songs, dancing and other stuff dreams are made of.
And now she had her back on the House as she rode away with head bent like a blossom in need of water, not noticing the slight drizzle, not even the difficult path the horses had to take to reach Cirith Forn en Andrath. Even thinking of the bittersweet goodbye, one more in a row of them she had had to endure these past years, was enough to bring tears back into her eyes. From this distance she could feel Laswing's presence at the back of her mind faintly and his similarly forlorn mood. Intent to at least try to make one of them feel better, she sent him a final rush of emotions that only had in them love with promise and memory of happiness. It drained her but that did not matter.
"Namárië, Eriant!" she whispered and sought comfort from Alagos, laying her hand on his strong and proud neck and felt the glossy and thick mane settle to cover it as the horse tossed his head slightly to reply to Aurelin's touch. Her tears mingled with the rain-drops and her companions let Aurelin be alone with her sadness. She could only hope that the Sun peeking out for a brief time before it set and casting a golden-red beam on the path to the pass indicated that there would come a turn for the better.