The Undying Lands - (chapter 70)

The sun rose gently and sweetly, the next morning, teasing it's light through windows and under doors. Birds sung in harmony, greeting each other in the early light. Every elf in the Golden Wood seemed to be asleep, resting in the peaceful atmosphere.
Little creatures began to open their sleepy eyes and creep out into the Wood for an early breakfast, before the elves awoke. A cat left its home and daintily tiptoed across stepping-stones, to a small pond. She bent her head and lapped up some water, savouring the taste. A frog jumped up to the cat and frightened her briefly, before she batted it away gently. The whole place was peaceful and-
`Aaaah!' A maiden had screamed at the top of her voice, and now every elf in the Wood was awake. Near to the cat, two giggles sounded from a bush.
The two elves in their hiding place could hear the commotion going on. Elves were rushing to the girl's help who, it turned out, had only woken to find frogs on her. The two people snuck out of the bush and went nearer to the scene, trying to look innocent.
They watched on, as the men came down from the maiden's flet, and tripped up, one by one, into or over traps laid on the ground. One tripped over rope that could not be seen; he landed in mud. Another stepped on a pile of leaves, which appeared to be covering a hole, as he suddenly vanished, and only his head was visible. The walkway of sticks had been pulled away, and in its place was another lot of sticks; or what looked like sticks. They were in actual fact little creatures that Elladan and Ariengil had discovered, which they called `stick insects'. Other such traps were laid, and each one was successful.
Most spectators found this incredibly funny, but suddenly a big elf came in. He looked down at the mess, and then looked up at Ariengil and Elladan. His eyes narrowed and Elladan smiled nervously. He gave a funny cough, and stepped backwards. Ariengil smiled sweetly and the man, but then looked at her friend in confusion. Sensing his worry, she too stepped back, and then they ran. They heard a cry from behind them, and as Ariengil looked around, she saw that they were being chased; and he was gaining on them.
Elladan led the elves in a complex and confusing run, ever trying to dodge their pursuer. However, the elf was impossible to leave behind. In between breaths, Ariengil asked Elladan who he was.
`He is,' panted Elladan in reply, `the person in charge here.' He swerved to the left and almost ran into Ariengil. `He is a descendant of Haldir of Lorien, and of Galadriel, Lady of the Wood. I think it was their grandchildren who married.' He thought about this, and then changed his mind. `No, I've got that completely wrong. It wasn't Galadriel; it was her best friend. His name is Riltir.' Ariengil nodded and pushed Elladan to the right. They dove into a bush and sat silently, hoping that they would not be found.
Riltir came around the corner and ran straight past the bush. Ariengil breathed a sigh of relief; so quiet that even Elladan could not hear it. But the huge elf stopped and turned to face the bush. Ariengil shook where she was. Elladan grabbed her hand and squeezed it gently; it did not help.
Two hands reached into the bush and took Elladan by his shoulders. Elladan was grabbed out and stood upright. Slightly more gently, Ariengil was pulled out too. Then Riltir looked down at them in a parental manner. He took a step towards them and raised his hands, then grabbed both elves into a hug. Ariengil cried out in surprise, but then relaxed in relief.
Riltir stepped back and looked at the younger elves, then chuckled. Then he giggled; and finally he laughed. Then he laughed and laughed, while the two elves looked at each other with bemused expressions. Finally Riltir calmed down and nodded with a smile on his face.
`That was great,' he exclaimed. `How did you do it? Who had the idea?' Ariengil looked at Elladan in surprise, and then they both launched into an explanation. `Wait a minute,' cried Riltir. `One at a time please.' Then he nodded to Elladan.
`Well yesterday we were lying on the grass when a stick landed on me,' began Elladan. `As I picked it up, it moved and I saw that it had six legs. I dropped it in shock and jumped up, screaming. Ariengil laughed and picked it up. She examined it quickly and determined that it was not dangerous, and we wondered where it had come from. Looking into the trees, we discovered that they were found on the branches. More so in branches with no leaves. Less were in the trees with lots of green leaves. So we thought what we could do with them. That was one part of the plan.'
Ariengil continued. `We were walking back, when I tripped in a rabbit hole. It was covered with leaves, so I didn't see it. We thought about it, and realised that we could do the same. Then we found an adorable frog and realised how much Halla dislikes them. We imagined that we could wake the whole of Lorien with her help, so we had our plan. We just kept adding to it, that's all.'
`You two are great,' cried Riltir happily. `But I was told to scold and punish you. So when we return, look upset and cross. What shall your imaginary punishment be?'
`You could have dunked us in the lake,' suggested Ariengil, and then shook her head immediately. `No, because we'd have to be wet then, and only a few people know about the lake.'
`How about tying us to a tree for a couple of hours?' asked Elladan. He looked at Ariengil and they both shook their heads.
`Or I could use you as archery practise- you stand against a tree while I shoot directly above your heads. That would be petrifying,' said Riltir.
`Yes,' cried the younger elves. Elladan thought for a moment, and then nodded his head slowly. `That would be a terrible punishment. My father was killed in that way.'
`I'm so sorry, Elladan. I forgot, please forgive me,' begged Riltir. Elladan smiled sadly and hugged his friend.
`Of course I forgive you. It was long ago, and although I miss him, there is nothing I can do about it. Don't worry, my friend.' The three of them walked back together, but as they neared the crowds of people, Riltir took both elves by the back of their jerkins and practically dragged them along. Elladan and Ariengil made an effort to look upset, but as Riltir described the supposed punishment, Elladan's sadness seemed serious.
Later that night, Ariengil felt glad to have Elladan as her friend. She was proud and pleased that he had confided in her about his father. She never told people about her own family and even Dînhith only knew parts of her story.
Lying on the flet that night, Ariengil did not expect Elladan to come up to her, but he did as she was thinking about him. `What are you thinking?' he asked, jumping her out of her reverie.
`Oh, Elladan,' she cried. `I was actually thinking about my family,' she replied, looking down in embarrassment.
`Will you share your thoughts?' he requested sweetly.
`Oh, er... no, sorry. But my thanks anyway.'
`Very well,' shrugged Elladan and he began to descend back to the ground. Ariengil looked up quickly and opened her mouth to speak, but shut again. She seemed to be having a debate with herself.
`Wait,' she cried as Elladan's head disappeared, `I would actually like to talk to you about them.' Her friend's face popped back up and lit up and he quickly leapt back onto the flet. `But I don't talk about them often, so please be patient with me.'
`Of course, and just talk away. I'm a good listener,' he smiled.
`I never knew my real parents, and I never want to meet them- they obviously didn't care about me enough to keep me, so I have no care in finding them. I always thought that my parents were Kiemen and Amarther, for they treated me as their daughter. When I was a baby, not even one year old, I was left in Lord Elrond's house. He would have looked after me, but my parents begged for me to be given into their care for they could not give birth again. At the time, Elure was nine years old and Elen was not born.
`Miraculously, two years after my adoption, Elen was born although it was so unexpected. They had been told that they couldn't have another child, but they did anyway. Another two years later, our family was disgraced because my father was accused of killing another elf.
`He was found innocent, but a lot of people still thought him guilty. We could not stay, so we came here, to Lothlorien. I'm not really sure how, but we became well known and honoured here and father and mother became a Lord and Lady. I was taught personally by Lady Galadriel, and was once allowed to look in her mirror.
`She said I was interesting, but I never knew why. I once began reading a document with a prophecy on it, but I never knew it was about me until recently- someone told me it again and said it was about me.
`Anyway, in Lothlorien we had a good life, and we returned to Rivendell a few times, where we are now accepted as friends again, not as outcasts. I left Lothlorien with Dînhith and Thaliondil two years ago, and we explored Middle Earth and then went to the Undying Lands. I decided I was old enough to leave home, and mother wished for her three children to go to the Havens. She was going to- she was going to- to join us this year, but- but- she was killed.
`If I had stayed, my family would not be dead- I would have stopped Nahald or saved my family from the orcs. Harma would not be dead if I had not left home. Why did I leave?' she cried.
`Hush, it is not your fault,' comforted Elladan. He took her in his arms and held her closely, murmuring comforting words in his friend's ear. Her sobs quietened and she looked up at Elladan in embarrassment.
`I'm sorry; I know it isn't my fault, but I just feel so terrible sometimes. I feel terrible a lot of the time. I wish I could have said goodbye one last time, especially to Elure. I miss him,' she whispered. `I miss him, I miss him,' she repeated as her eyes closed. Elladan rocked her from side to side, really gently, and Ariengil drifted off to sleep. `Elure,' she breathed and soon she was deeply asleep.
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