Sweet Sorrow: Chapter One - Love's beginnings
Author's Note: For my flatmate, on the occasion of her 21st birthday!
Neath the Beeches
"But say, perchance, I need you
Will you always be there?
And I will lie with you neath the beeches
On the strand again." (The Frames, `Neath the Beeches')
The woods have changed; the life is seeping from the trees. She who preserved them for years has long passed into the West. The Lord of the land is also leaving, for this place holds little joy for him since her departure. We shall depart with him, for we are still his people, the Galadhrim; people of the trees, subjects of the Lady of Light.
But it is so difficult for me; I was born in the shade of these trees. I had never ventured further than an arrow's flight from the borders of this place; my home, until after the downfall of Sauron. Yet now we go to Rivendell; or what remains of it. I cannot deny that I wish to look upon the place that has been home to my beloved for his entire life.
The choice is now before me it seems; to leave this land of Middle earth which, although its magic has faded, is still filled with living memories of joy and peace, or to part from he whom I love best.
He has not spoken of such things but I know. I know that he wishes to pass over the sea when his time comes; when there is naught to bind him to Middle earth.
Third Age, 2500
"Ai! `Tis the sweet sound of the Nimrodel; our journey is at an end, brother!" A tall dark-haired Elf leapt off his horse and drank from the waters of the river. He was followed closely by a second Elf-lord, identical in face and manner.
"You say that every time, Elrohir," he returned, with a smile on his face. "I maintain that there is one thing more beautiful than the sound of clear running waters and that is..."
"The sight of the mellyrn of Lothlórien?" Elrohir raised an eyebrow in amusement while his brother looked somewhat abashed. "Elladan, you say that every time."
Elladan held up his hands in mock-surrender. "I believe that we have spent too long in each other's company, brother, for I could swear that you know what I am about to say, ere I know myself!"
Laughing jovially, the two Elves led their horses through the stream, the swift waters soothing the travellers' weary legs. They made their way in under the eaves of the forest and the stillness of Lothlórien enveloped them. Having walked some way into the forest, Elladan came to a halt.
"Mae govannen, Haldir o Lórien," he called softly. "You are ever watchful, it seems."
A tall fair-haired Elf lowered himself from a tree and landed lightly before the sons of Elrond. He indicated to unseen sentries to lower their weapons before he bowed. "Mae govannen, Elladan a Elrohir Elrondion. In these days, we believe that constant vigilance is an absolute necessity. Orcs abound in the area and some have even passed over the Nimrodel." The twin sons of Elrond looked shocked at this, and the marchwarden smiled grimly. "Ay, but the power of the Lady will prevent any from crossing the Silverlode, or so we hope."
Two Elves, clad in the dun raiment of the Galadhrim stepped forward to lead the twins' horses away.
"Vile creatures, Orcs," commented Elladan as they walked towards the Silverlode. Haldir called across the river and immediately a rope was flung across. He caught it deftly and tied it into place.
"They are despicable," agreed Elrohir. "It is most dangerous to be abroad in the land in these days. The paths over the Misty Mountains have become perilous indeed."
Haldir glanced at the twins' swords, sheathed at their sides, and raised his eyebrows. "I daresay that any confrontation would be more perilous to an Orc than to a son of Elrond." He grinned suddenly and added as an afterthought. "And I believe it is safe to assume that when both sons of Elrond travel together, no Orc would be foolish enough to attack."
Elrohir chuckled slightly before admitting that they had not been troubled. "But there was a definite sense of watchfulness as we journeyed over the pass of Caradhras."
Elladan led the way over the rope bridge and, while he was waiting for the others to cross, he looked around, breathing deep of the pure air of Lórien. He caught sight of a flash of white amongst the trees and narrowed his eyes as he peered in that direction. He could have sworn that he had heard a low clear laugh and the vision of fair shining hair appeared briefly before him, before disappearing in the deepening shadows of dusky trees. "It seems that watchfulness is not confined to Orckind," he said when his brother and Haldir had joined him. Elrohir looked at him with confusion; for once their minds were not completely attuned to one another. Elladan nodded in the direction of a small clearing away to the left.
"Forgive me, brother, but what ever are you referring to?" Elrohir was puzzled for he could see nothing, save trees.
Haldir laughed, "'Tis probably one of the Lady's handmaidens. They oft travel here to pick elanor and niphredil. It is said that the Lady loves the flowers."
They continued on their way, but Elladan looked back curiously on a number of occasions, thinking his actions were incredibly surreptitious until Elrohir caught his eye and winked solemnly and Haldir's face, carefully guarded as ever, may have betrayed a small smile.
At last they reached Caras Galadhon and Haldir conducted them to the chamber of Galadriel and Celeborn before bidding farewell to the sons of Elrond.
"Our thanks, Haldir," Elladan began, "perhaps we will see you again ere we leave."
Haldir bowed. "I hope so," he replied, before a definite smile appeared on his face. "But I shall not be insulted if you seek fairer company, son of Elrond."
Elrohir manfully bit back a laugh. "I should think that our daeradar and daernaneth will command much of our time but I must admit that my curiosity is piqued. Should you find out who my brother's admirer is, do let me know!"
Haldir smothered a chuckle. "I rather think that 'twas your brother who was admiring, rather than the other way round. However, I shall ask my wife; I daresay she will know the identity of this secretive maiden!"
Elrohir watched with satisfaction as his brother's face turned bright red before nudging him in the ribs. "Come now, brother, we jest! Cease your blushing, for it is most unbecoming and I do hate to see such a fair face so disfigured." He stopped prodding his brother upon receiving an even more disfiguring glare. "Brother! Do not contort your face so!" With a winsome smile, the younger twin led the way before the seats of the Lord and Lady of Lothlórien and Elladan consciously recomposed his features as he followed.
That night, a feast was held to welcome the sons of Elrond to the fair realm of Lothlórien. They sat in seats of honour beside the Lord and Lady.
"Brother, you might consider asking our grandmother as to the identity of this mysterious maiden," muttered Elrohir. "All you have mentioned is that she has fair hair but, alas, that does not narrow down the search!" He gestured at the throng of predominantly blonde Elves, some of whom were talking in huddled groups and some of whom were dancing and singing.
Elladan sighed. His dear twin had spoken of little else during the meal and he was quite regretting ever mentioning her. 'Twas mere curiosity, and nothing more, that prompted him to speak of her in the first place. As Elrohir delighted in reminding him, he knew naught of her, save that she had fair hair. Although, he pondered, there had been a certain charm about her laughter. He shook his head; how unlike him this was; to be so interested in a maiden he might never see again in the vast realm of Lórien.
Elrohir nudged him slightly. "If you must speak to yourself, brother mine, be so good as to do so quietly!"
Elladan opened his mouth and was on the verge of making some caustic comment when an Elf-lady appeared before them, curtseying gracefully. When she stood up, it was obvious that she was very tall for a she-Elf, though not so tall as the Lady Galadriel, and her hair was as black as the night sky above them.
"Greetings, sons of Elrond," she began. "I daresay you have quite forgotten who I am..."
"Lady Náriel!" cried Elrohir promptly, standing up and kissing her hand. "Of course we have not forgotten you, for we spent many happy days teasing Haldir on your account."
The lady laughed and a slight colour rose to her face. "In that case, I must apologise for depriving you of such a source of entertainment."
"Indeed," put in Elladan as he followed his brother's example in greeting the lady. "By marrying him, you did rather spoil our fun!"
"But he has informed me that he has had the pleasure of returning the jibe, Lord Elladan," said Náriel. "He bade me speak with you about a certain fair maiden who frequents a forest glade near the Celebrant."
Elladan blushed deeply but said nothing. Elrohir, of course, suffered no such embarrassment, and spoke up. "How good of your husband! Can you shed some light on the matter, my lady?"
"I can." At those words, Elladan could not conceal his interest. After all, what harm could there be in learning the maiden's name? Náriel caught his eye, and smiled slowly. "She is Morcotulce, chief handmaiden to the Lady Galadriel."
"Tell me you're sure
And the precious precious waiting I'd endure
Cos you're all I'll ever want
I'm falling in a headlong." (The Frames, `Headlong')
I saw him first in Lórien. He caught my eye as he stood by the banks of the swift-flowing Silverlode. I often went there, to gather flowers for the Lady; for I found the song of the running water soothing but there was something in his voice that forced me to notice him. He spoke with his brother and the warden of the Northern March. I know he saw me then, though much time passed ere he ever spoke to me.
I cannot decide whether he was shy, or whether he was burdened with knowledge of our differing heritages. He is the son of Elrond Halfelven, mighty among the princes of Elves, and the Lady Celebrían, fair daughter of our Lord and Lady. In his veins flows the mingled blood of the Maiar, the Eldar and the Edain.
Whereas I am a Wood-Elf, born of the simple Silvan race in the Golden Wood, during the reign of Amroth.
Ai, I can recall when he first spoke to me; he talked of Amroth and Nimrodel. 'Tis a story close to my heart, for my mother Mithrellas was a companion of Nimrodel and travelled to Belfalas with her. It was peculiar to speak of such matters with a kinsman of Amroth, even though over five hundred years had passed since the day we learned of their end. I had almost reached my one hundred and fiftieth year when Nimrodel, and my mother, and all her maidens departed Lothlórien for the Blessed Realm. I remained in Lórien, with my father, for we had not grown weary of the land.
Shortly afterwards, my father sickened and died. I believe that great efforts were made to conceal the facts from me, but I had heard that my mother had been taken to wife by a Man. She bore him children, they said. An Elf does not bear children against her will, else she will die, yet it is said that my mother willingly bore this Man's children. I know that this weighed on my father's mind. He came among the people of Lórien less and less and, before long, he had faded away. I cannot believe that my mother would betray my father's affections in such a way.
I can but hope that they have been re-united, even if the Halls of Mandos are now their dwelling place.
So it was that I learned of the pain of granting ones heart to another; so it was that I guarded my own so carefully.
Perhaps that is why the agony is so great now; I knew a love so overwhelming that my defences were shattered, leaving me exposed to a greater pain.
For now, I know that one or other of our hearts will break.
Third Age, 2509
Elrohir threw a grape at his brother's head and derived some pleasure from seeing it hit Elladan square between the eyes. "Brother, will you return your mind to the present? I know not whether your thoughts stray to this coming evening or whether you are trapped in some recent bliss-filled memory, but I would appreciate something more of a reaction!"
"Sorry?" Elladan blinked. "I was not listening."
"That was obvious." Elrohir snorted with amused disgust. "It took you three years to speak more than two sentences to the fair Morcotulce but I think I preferred the pensive silence of those days to this new..." He waved his hand expressively. "...complacency!" Shaking his head, he brandished a letter in the direction of his twin. "I have here a letter from Adar. He says that Naneth is coming to Lórien, and should be here within the fortnight."
Elladan smiled and said with genuine warmth. "Those are wonderful tidings for it has been too long since we have seen our parents."
"I doubt that they expected to us to stay from home for quite so long," said Elrohir before he muttered under his breath. "I know I did not expect it."
"I heard that!" Elladan cried out.
"Had I not intended you to hear my words, I would not have spoken them aloud," returned his brother. "Although I daresay you would have understood my meaning had I said nothing at all," he added darkly.
"'Tis part of the joy of being a twin, brother mine," smiled Elladan. "You can hide naught from me!"
"Nor you from me, more's the pity." Elrohir turned his attention back to the letter. "Father sends his love, as does Arwen, who asks that we not stay away so long next time. She is right, you know." He fixed his brother with a steely glare. "Nine years is far too long a time to be absent from Rivendell."
"Agreed," said Elladan, "but you cannot deny that our grandparents have appreciated our presence here, especially with the ever-increasing number of Orcs prowling the borders."
"You are making excuses, Elladan! I do wish..."
A gentle cough could be heard at the entranceway of the twins' chamber.
"Haldir!" cried Elrohir gladly. "Perhaps you might talk some sense into my brother!"
"I would not dare to presume that any child of Elrond was lacking in sense," replied Haldir gravely, before adding expansively, "but when I consider both of your behaviour towards me when I first met Náriel, I can lay such opinions to the side without qualm."
Elrohir wheezed with laughter as Elladan steeled himself for a fresh assault of jokes and jibes. Almost every day for the past nine years, either Elrohir or Haldir had managed to tease Elladan; first for his uncharacteristic shyness and, more recently, for his inability to speak of any subject but Morcotulce. Haldir restrained himself, however, despite the temptation. "Unfortunately, that is not the purpose of my visit. I bring word from the Lord Celeborn; he expects you to wait on him this evening and I do believe that prior... romantic arrangements will not constitute a valid excuse."
Elladan's face fell slightly but he recovered himself admirably. "In that case, Haldir, will you please..." he hesitated.
"Inform Morcotulce that you will not be meeting her tonight?" asked Haldir as solemnly as he could. Elladan affirmed this request by bowing his head slightly.
"Very well," sighed the marchwarden. "Although I still think that there is a way of avoiding all this." Elladan looked up while Haldir went on. "Marry the girl! It worked for me, after all. No sooner had I announced my betrothal than you and your irrepressible brother..." Elrohir pretended to look affronted at this but had to concede the point. "... immediately ceased tormenting me!"
With a bow, Haldir turned and departed. Elladan picked up the grape that had previously been used as ammunition against him and hurled it in the direction of Haldir's back. The unfortunate fruit bounced harmlessly off the closing door and the elder twin swore, earning a raised eyebrow from his brother who then returned to his perusal of the missives from Rivendell until the time came for them to answer Celeborn's summons.
"I have not heard you speak of the maiden, Morcotulce," Celeborn said calmly, watching his eldest grandchild's reaction. In all this time, Elladan had been careful not to mention the she-Elf's name within the hearing of either grandparent. He has certainly been discreet, mused the Lord of Lothlórien, but he can hardly have expected such a thing to pass unnoticed. The silver-haired Elf-lord's mouth twitched slightly. There had been no need to use the mirror of Galadriel to perceive the direction of Elladan's heart.
Elladan noticed his grandfather suppress a smile but knew that not all was well. An air of distinguished solemnity hung about Celeborn; that was normal, but on this eve he seemed even graver than usual. "She is a pretty maid," he said which encouraged Elladan slightly, "and I daresay she is most fond of you."
An unspoken word hung in the air.
"Neither of her parents live," remarked Celeborn in an apparent non-sequiter.
"I am aware of that, Daeradar," said Elladan stiffly.
"So, in a sense, there is no one to support and advise her in these circumstances."
"These circumstances? I do not know what you are implying with such words..." began Elladan hotly before his grandfather cut across him.
"It is therefore up to me to act in her best interests and I would not see her affections trifled with." Celeborn held up a hand to forestall any angry objections. "I do not accuse you of misusing the girl but I must insist that you consider your course of action with care."
"Course of action?" spluttered Elladan.
"Please do not repeat everything I say, Elladan. I know you understand my meaning. As flattering as it is to believe that you and your brother have remained so long in Lórien simply out of respect and love for your grandparents..."
Elrohir looked up at this, having spent much of the exchange studying his feet, or the ceiling, or whatever else caught his eye. Celeborn smiled at him. "If you wish to claim such a motive, I will not contradict you, Elrohir."
The younger twin grinned slightly, knowing full well that his grandfather was aware that where Elladan stayed, so stayed he. The concept of parting from his brother was unconscionable and Celeborn knew it.
"Well, Elladan, what have you to say?" asked the Lord of Lórien. "What are your intentions?"
Elladan squirmed slightly under the level gaze of his grandfather before he spoke clearly. "I wish to marry her."
Celeborn closed his eyes; though whether with pain or satisfaction neither twin could tell. "Very well; you have chosen."
"I have," stated Elladan defiantly. "And I shall speak to Naneth of this when she arrives."
"So be it," said Celeborn. "Your mother is due to arrive in two weeks. In two weeks and one day, I would know your final decision."
"I have made my final decision, Daeradar."
The firm set of Elladan's jaw indicated that he would not be moved, and Celeborn was put in mind of his own daughter's face when she had set her heart on marrying Lord Elrond Peredhil. He could not help but smile.
"So be it," he repeated