The Ageless Rose - Chapter Three
The weather was cold. The winter season was beginning; every day Merilwen awoke to a dusting of snow upon the ground at Rivendell; coating the panes of glass in her bedroom with frosty designs and making the trees sparkle with glittery powder. Fragrant braches of pine and cedar were decorating the door frames and arches in the house; Elves donned bright raiment in rich colors for the celebration of the season. Red berries winked out in gilded bowls; mistletoe hung on doorframes.
Merilwen remembered with amusement the shock she had first felt when she was ten years old and three rather handsome Elflings of the household had given her quick kisses upon her cheek when she had been captured beneath the unfortunate doorframe outside the wing to Elladan and Elrohir's room. She was glad she was older now (as Estel had pointed out, thirteen was far wiser than ten) and had made rather well crafted plans to be sure to remove all such hanging silliness from the area around her rooms.
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"Adar?" Merilwen had crept quietly into Lord Elrond's private library. A fire was crackling merrily in the hearth, while snow swirled against the glass panes, fairly pouring from the inky night sky. Merilwen shivered slightly in her white gown, a warm woolen over-robe pulled over her small shoulders, very glad she was indoors.
Elrond was sitting in a spacious leather chair before the hearth, his fingers laced together beneath his chin, eyes clouded in deep thought. An end table held a half filled wine glass and a leather-bound book. She remembered all the times when she was younger and she would climb onto his lap, laughing and hearing stories about past ages until she drifted to sleep in his arms; a very different Elrond from the one that now presided at banquets and was known to the rest of the world as one of the Wise.
But this time when she came, it was different. She had a purpose; she had a question that had been burning in heart her for weeks now. She wasn't sure if she would get an answer, yet as Estel had told her, there is always hope.
Elrond stirred at her voice, a smile lighting his face. Merilwen wondered why he suddenly looked tired so much older as his features where shadowed in the fire; the few lines on his face seemed to bear the burden of ages. Which he has, she told herself, remembering what her mother had mentioned to her about her adoptive father's lengthy past.
"Merilwen," He exclaimed, shifting to accommodate her as she sat beside him, tucking her feet up onto the chair beneath the hem of her gown. "This is a rather pleasant surprise. Have you come to merely visit me, or is there something you wish?"
"I just wanted so see you," Merilwen said innocently as she watched sparks leap about in the fireplace. They sat in silence for a moment, hearing the wind outside and the crackle of the wood in the hearth. She drew a shaky breath, and blurted the question she had been aching to ask.
"Ada, why are me and Estel and Mama the only... people who aren't... like you in Rivendell?"
Lord Elrond turned his head abruptly, gazing at the little maiden that sat beside him, surveying his face with calculating and distant eyes. He had not been expecting this--this question so early on in her life. She was not yet thirteen! His brow furrowed in confusion as he sat beside her. He closed his eyes for a moment, and buried his face in his hands. How had she come to ask such a thing? She had never once in all her years queried about her hidden past.
"A-Ada?" Merilwen murmured, resting her hand on his sturdy arm, worried at this uncharacteristic sign of weariness or grief.
He raised his eyes, watching her. She is too young, far to young, he told himself. Now is not the time.
"Merilwen, my child--" he began, and then stopped. A low sigh escaped his lips. "May I inquire as to why you are asking this?"
Merilwen bit her lip and frowned. "I just--wanted to know, Adar. I am different. Estel is different too. Why is it so?"
Lord Elrond took her small hands in his. Merilwen felt the gentle calluses on his palms, her fingers warmed by the life of the Eldar that radiated from him.
"I--I am afraid that I cannot give you an answer, Merilwen," he murmured to her, his loving grey eyes scanning her face framed by dark locks. "Not yet."
Merilwen sighed, releasing his hands as she stood, wandering over to the windows. Hadn't she expected this? She had perhaps known all along he would not tell her. Even so, it couldn't hurt to ask, could it?
"I am sorry, my child." Elrond rose and stood behind her, his large hands on her petite shoulders. He could see her perplexed face reflected in the glass, and felt an unwelcome twinge of concern.
"It is alright," she said quietly, leaning back into his fatherly embrace. "But--you will tell me someday, won't you?"
"Yes," he said, deep voice barely above a whisper, his face guarded. He stroked her soft hair, still contemplating all that she had said. Someday.