Snaga of Mordor - Chapter Eighteen - Gifts

Elrond was very happy when Arwen and Snaga told him that Snaga was going to pick a new name, which put to rest any lingering doubts that Snaga had had about choosing a name. She sat down with Arwen and some heavy dictionaries to choose a name that very day, but after three hours of slogging through one dictionary to find words Snaga liked, even Arwen's enthusiasm was flagging. Snaga's had long since given way to method - she would go down the list of words, pick one she liked, write it down, and go back to the dictionary. It was slow work, and finally Snaga slapped the dictionary she was using closed and pushed it aside. "I have to take a break," she told Arwen. "My mind is withering just thinking of all the rest of the words I have to look through."

"About time!" Arwen gave a weary laugh and closed the dictionary she had been browsing. "I was wondering when you would get tired." She stood up and held out her hand. "Want to come walk in the garden with me?"

"I'd love to!" Snaga said gratefully. A long, quiet walk in mid-morning with Arwen would be just the thing to stop her mind from conjuring up now-disturbing images of pages and pages of Sindarin words. She sprang to her feet and followed Arwen out of her room.

They made their way down to the private garden that Celebrian, Arwen's mother, had planted and tended. After she departed for Valinor, Arwen had taken over the garden, and it seemed as willing to bloom for the Evenstar as for the lady of Rivendell. Snaga loved walking among its flowerbeds and small paths.

If she had hoped to have a quiet walk, however, that pleasure was to be denied her. No sooner had she and Arwen begun walking than Arwen turned to her and said quietly, "Snaga, can I ask you something?"

There goes peace and quiet, Snaga thought ruefully. There was a look in Arwen's eyes that meant that the question she wanted to ask was not going to be an easy one to answer. "Yes," she said aloud.

Arwen took a deep breath and asked it. "Do you care for Elrohir?"

Snaga's eyes opened wide. She had not expected this. She forced a laugh. "Of course! He's my cousin -" she started to say.

Arwen cut her off. "You know what I mean." Snaga fell silent abruptly and looked down at the small stones lining the garden path. When she did not speak for some time, Arwen went on. "I have eyes, Snaga. Please tell me. Is there something besides family between you and Elrohir?"

"What if there is?" Snaga said quietly. She walked in front of Arwen, putting her back to her cousin. "What would you do if there was?"

Arwen was at a loss for what to do. Snaga had never gone cold on her like this before, never. Her instincts told her that she had not only put her finger on the truth, but that the truth was raw and hurting somewhere. She took a deep breath. "Snaga, if you do feel something for him, I would be thrilled. I love you both, and I would love it if you decided to marry." She took a step toward Snaga, but the gravel under her feet warned Snaga of her approach, and she took an answering step away from Arwen. "Can you believe me?"

She saw Snaga's shoulders shake, and she reached out and took her hands. "Please trust me!" she whispered. "Please!"

Snaga turned her face toward Arwen - her eyes were bright with unshed tears. "I do," she whispered back. "If not you, who would I trust?" She swallowed the tears down. "I wish there was something between us besides being family," she went on. "I wish there was, but I don't know."

Arwen gripped her hands tightly. "Are you afraid?"

"Yes." Snaga swallowed again. "I was afraid every day they were away, searching for Sauron, that some dispatch would come back saying that he was dead and I would never have told him any inkling of how I felt. I wished he'd never gone, and at the same time the reasons he went are part of why I feel this way about him. Is that part of loving someone?" She looked away from Arwen to swallow, then met her eyes again. "You've been here before. Tell me. Please."

Arwen closed her eyes for a time before opening them to her cousin's anxious ones. "That is part of it, for Aragorn and me at least. Everyone is different, so everyone's way of loving is different, but I do know what you're talking about, and yes, I would say that you love him."

Snaga sighed and released Arwen's hands. "That's what I needed to know," she whispered. "Thank you."

How afraid she is! Arwen thought. Just like I was at first. A surge of empathy welled up in her, and she put her arms around Snaga and held her gently. She felt Snaga's body shudder with smothered sobs, but she said nothing, only loosening her hold when Snaga began to pull away from the hug. "Will you be all right?" she asked.

"I hope so," Snaga answered, squeezing Arwen's hand in silent thanks.

***

Snaga sheathed her daggers and wiped her forehead free of sweat. Elrohir was drinking water from the flask that he always brought to her lessons. She was tempted to ask him if she could have a drink, but she decided not to. She could always have one in her room, of course, and there was no need to bother Elrohir.

Although she wondered whether her silence was due to the fact that the Elf who had stared at Elrohir when he returned from hunting for Sauron was going everywhere with him. Snaga's initial dislike of her had become greater when she realized that there was absolutely nothing inside the Elf-girl's head - other than mush, at least. At least she had had an ally - Arwen had gamely taken a disliking to the girl as well, and had tried to cheer Snaga up by pointing out that Elrohir seemed increasingly annoyed at the girl when she kept popping up at his side. But he could just tell her to leave him alone, Snaga thought, and wondered why she was so fond of self-torture.

She snapped out of her thoughts when Elrohir said, "Do you want a drink?" and offered her the flask of water.

"Oh," she said, flustered. "Oh, no, thanks." She quickly unbuckled her dagger belt with the sheaths dangling from it and dropped her small towel on top of it. "No, I should be going," she added, avoiding looking at him. "I have to finish the dress for Arwen."

"Well, don't go yet!" he said. "I have something for you."

Snaga swallowed and turned to face him. "What?" she asked.

Elrohir laughed. "No need to look so scared! I'm not going to skewer you on my sword, you know." That drew a smile from her, albeit a weak one, and Elrohir smiled too. "All right, close your eyes."

"You are going to skewer me on your sword," she accused, but she closed her eyes.

He chuckled. "No. I promise I won't." Snaga heard him set down the water flask and walk to the far side of the practice room. She heard him move aside some of his things, which he'd tossed in a pile on his side of the room, and then his footsteps came back to stand in front of her. "All right," he said, excitement in his voice. "You can open your eyes."

Snaga opened them - and stared at the twin tooled-leather dagger sheaths dangling from an identical belt, with twin hilts rising out of them. Her mouth dropped open, and she reached out and touched the nearest hilt. "They're beautiful!" she breathed.

Elrohir's smile was as wide as the world. "Take them, Snaga. They're yours."

She reached out and took the belt, her fingertips brushing along the Elvish tooled into the leather. "These must have cost you a fortune!" she gasped, drawing one of the daggers and noting the same Elvish words adorning the gleaming blade.

"It's not polite to say," he teased, "so you can't ask me." Then, with a grin, he added, "But a proper matched set of daggers does not come cheaply, I promise you that!" His face softened. "When I bested my fighting instructor, he gave me a set of matched daggers. I thought it was only fitting, considering your triumph of last week."

Snaga grinned, remembering how proud she'd been that she'd beaten Elrohir for the first time. In their next match, she'd been so excited that he'd won it easily, but she'd still beaten him. "Thank you, Elrohir," she whispered. "I - thank you."

"Here," he said. "I'll gird you properly. It is customary to have someone put your weapons on for you the first time you wear them." He slipped the belt around her waist and quickly buckled it in front, so that the daggers hung one over each thigh, within easy unsheathing range. Then he stepped back and smiled. "Perfect."

Snaga bit her lip and smiled too. "Elrohir, thank you so much!" she whispered, swallowing down an overjoyed lump in her throat. He reached out and pulled her into a hug. Snaga closed her eyes and hugged him back.

Then he coughed and let her go. "We should get back to the house," he said ruefully, picking up the bag he always brought to the lessons and slipping the flask of water into it. Snaga scooped up her own bag, putting the practice daggers into it, and followed him out of the practice room.

"Elrohir," she said as they climbed the stairs to the balcony of Elrond's house, "I'm going to pick a new name." She kept her eyes ahead of her as she talked. "What do you think of that?"

He stopped on the step above her and looked down at her. "I think that is a brilliant idea," he answered. "What name are you thinking of?"

"I don't know," Snaga confessed. She shrugged and hitched her bag higher on her shoulders. "What would you suggest?"

"Well, I would suggest talking it over with Arwen, who will have much more imaginative ideas for girls' names than me!" Elrohir laughed.

"She was the one who suggested it," Snaga told him. "So I've already talked with her about it. I -" She took another step to catch up to Elrohir. "I wanted to know what ideas you might have."

Elrohir paused for a moment that seemed interminable before he answered, and even then he answered in a question. "Who are the most important people in your life right now?"

"What do you mean?" Snaga asked.

"Just what it sounds like."

She thought about it. "Gandalf. Arwen. You." He grinned. "I'm not just saying that because you're here!" Snaga added quickly. "Who else? Elrond. And Galadriel." She looked back at Elrohir. "I think that about covers it."

"Well, what I would suggest is that you think about those people you mentioned, and pick something that would remind you of them." Elrohir reached over and lifted her bag off her shoulders. "Come on, Undecided One. I'll carry this for you until we get to your room."

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