To Dream - Ch21: Love's Labors Lost

Things you need to know about this story...
1.) Elven dreams are very realistic
2.) Elves shouldn't normally meet *real* people along the Olórë Mallë (Path of Dreams)... but something happens in this story that is not normal

Names/Pronunciations will come at the end of each chapter.
`*' signals a footnote


Chapter 21.) Love's Labors Lost

Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight
- Alfred Noyes

Recap: Elladan and Elrohir will be escorting Nessúlë & co. to LothLorien. This chapter takes place on the day of their departure. Kallindo is still depressed because Oloriel has rejected him; he has avoided her for over a week now.

"How in all of Arda did you manage to acquire so much baggage in so short a stay?" Arwen looked in amazement at the pile of traveling bags and belongings, already accrued on top of Nessúlë's bed.

Nessúlë collapsed onto a part of the bed that was not covered and sighed. "I have no idea. I came to this hidden sanctuary with two saddlebags and a sword at my hip; where this other stuff came from I cannot tell." She picked up a delicate shawl that had been gifted to her by... someone, and looked at it with a mixture of curiosity and ignorance, as though she were saying, `And where did you come from?'

Arwen just laughed at her bewilderment. "It doesn't matter how it all came to be here, I suppose. The question is how will you get it to where you are going? You cannot possibly be thinking of taking it all with you. You would need at least five packhorses!"

"I know, I know," groaned Nessúlë, "But what can I do?"

Arwen's eyes narrowed slightly as she let her mind mull over the problem. "It seems obvious," she finally replied, "You must simply leave most of it here in your room, and when you come back to visit, it will all be here waiting for you."

Nessúlë brightened. "Could I come back? Oh that is a lovely thought. I would hate to be separated from you forever. Although, I daresay that I would not be able to come for a long while."

"It does not matter," Arwen assured, "Imladris will always be welcome to you."

Nessúlë smiled up at her friend. "And I will always welcome Imladris. You have all been very kind to me, and I will not forget it."

"I should think not!" came a masculine voice from the doorway, "We are, after all, very unforgettable."

Nessúlë rolled her eyes. "You have the oddest knack for showing up unexpected and uninvited, Elrohir. I suppose that is why I will never be able to forget you. Just when I think I am finally free, I will turn a corner, and there you will be, standing with that silly smirk on your face."

Elrohir bowed gallantly and favored her with an especially silly smirk. "I would never contradict a lady."

Arwen interrupted their banter then. "And just why have you come to a lady's private chambers uninvited, brother? Or have you forgotten so soon?"

Elrohir walked further into the room, planted a kiss on his sister's cheek, and replied. "I have come to take Lady Nessúlë's bags out to the stable yard. Are they ready?"

Arwen and Nessúlë looked at each other and groaned simultaneously. "The question is not whether they are ready," Nessúlë finally replied, "But, how many of them are ready?" She swept her hand in a wide arc to showcase the multitude of boxes, bags, and loose paraphernalia that lay scattered across her bed.

Elrohir's eyes widened slightly. "Oh... maybe I'll come back in a few minutes?"

Arwen chuckled. "Yes, do that."

Elrohir retreated swiftly.

"He may be a skilled warrior," Arwen remarked, "but when it comes to tackling the mystery of a lady's trousseau*, he is out of his league."

The two elleths smirked cheekily, then turned a critical eye on the mound of baggage and set to work whittling it down.


Elladan rubbed his horse's neck as it nuzzled into his hand to claim the last few morsels of sweet grain that had rested there. He had come to the stables early that day; making sure that everything was in readiness. He spent extra time grooming his steed to let out some the restless energy that was building up inside of him. Two weeks from now he would see Oloriel. This thought was all that his mind could focus on. He itched to be off and on his way. What could be taking everyone so long?

To his relief, Arwen and Nessúlë finally approached the stable, each carrying a saddlebag. He helped them load the bags onto Nessúlë's horse, one behind and one in front of where she would sit.

"Well, we are all set then?" Nessúlë questioned as she scratched her mare behind the ear.

Elladan was about to reply when Alarkelú walked up, leading his own horse behind him. "Nay, lady, not all are in readiness. Elrohir and Lantél seem to have wandered off somewhere."

Elladan sighed. What was his brother up to?

"Come, Alarkelú," Nessúlë called as she walked out of the stable, "We will go in search of them. I am anxious to be off."

Alarkelú followed her willingly, leaving Arwen and Elladan behind with the horses.

Elladan scuffed the hard dirt of the stable floor impatiently with his soft leather boot. He was sick of waiting. As he felt a small hand come to rest on his shoulder, his restless movement stilled. Turning, he saw the lovely, courageous face of his sister, Arwen, looking up at him with compassion. His frustration dissipated as he looked into her eyes. "And how will you fare, laes gwathel {baby sister}, while we are gone?"

Arwen smiled softly. "I will survive as I always have. Take care of my new friends and come back to me safely."

"Is that all that you ask? Are you contented with so little?"

Arwen laughed, "Oh, but it is not such a little thing. And yet, you are right in that it is not all that I want."

Elladan squeezed her hand. "Might I be of service?"

The glint in his sister's eyes told him that he had struck the right chord. "Actually, now that you mention it... I do have something that you could do for me." Elladan's silence prompted her to continue. Drawing a small missive out of a hidden pocket in the folds of her gown, she pressed it into his hands and spoke. "It may be that the Fellowship will pass through LothLorien. Since they are on foot you may arrive even before they do. If this is the case, give this letter to our grandmother. She will see that Estel* receives it

Elladan held the packet gently; it was thick and doubtless contained many pages. He looked up at his sister with a sad smile and assured her that he would see the mission through. "Estel is a fortunate man. I am sure that this will lift his weary heart."

Arwen turned as the rest of the travelling party came into the stable.

"They only went to find us and carry my bags," explained Nessúlë, "But they took a different path to my room, and so they missed us coming out."

Arwen nodded in understanding then made her way toward the door. "Well, it seems as if you are finally ready. I will go stand with ada at the gate. He is waiting to bid you all farewell."

In just a few moments everyone was mounted and waiting to depart. Elrohir and Alarkelú obligingly took up the lead position, riding side by side out of the stable yard. Elladan took up the rear of their procession. As the horses walked slowly toward the lower end of the valley, he let his mind wander. He thought of the letter that Arwen had given him to deliver. It was tucked away safely in one of his saddlebags. Reaching a hand up to finger the small pouch that hung from his neck, his thoughts turned toward his own mission. He too had a message to bring to the Golden Wood. He just hoped that it would be received well.

Looking up, Elladan spied his father, and a rather large company of elves, awaiting them at one of the arching stone gates. The travelers pulled up abreast of each other as they halted in front of the gathering. Raising his hands in a sign of entreaty, Elrond spoke an Elven blessing upon their journey.

"An nossvín o Mithlond: Nedhgoe minnel an mín, aen gwannel ansîdh {To our kindred from Mithlond: In fear you came to us, may you depart with peace}. Aen i'Valar ortiria le pân. Laervín garna le erin lend; aen bain suil garna le {May the Valar watch over you all. Our songs attend you on the journey; may fair winds go with you}."

In chorus, the company replied, "Ar na le {And also with you}"

Elladan was the first to turn his horse toward the path that would lead them from Imladris. Slowly the others followed him. As they made their way out of the valley, the gentle, lilting sound of Elven voices raised in song came to them upon the breeze.


"Did I actually see you smile?" Orophin asked in astonishment.

Kallindo rolled his eyes. "What of it?'

"Come now, I don't think I've seen you smile since I met you. You're usually too busy pining away after your lady love."

A soft growl hovered in the back of Kallindo's throat. "Why did I agree to come with you again?"

Orophin laughed. "Because I wouldn't have stopped pestering you unless you had."

"Ah yes, that is right. Of course, you're still pestering me, so maybe I should leave."

Despite his threats, Kallindo did not leave. It may not have appeared so at the moment, but a somewhat tentative friendship had sprung up between him and Orophin after they had met through Haldir several days before. And while the other's incessant teasing would sometimes grate on his nerves, Kallindo knew that it was better than sitting around in his flet moping.

Kallindo broke the silence that had fallen between the two elves as they walked beneath the trees of Lorien. "You have no room to speak. At least you have Adriel*. If she was taken from you, you would pine as well."

Orophin laughed softly. "Aye, if my wife was taken from me my heart would go with her. But Kallindo, I have been married to her for two hundred and ninety-three years. You never even began to court this maiden. The comparison is very weak."

"The principle is the same," Kallindo replied gloomily.

Orophin just shook his head. He had taken Kallindo under his wing as something of a pet project, but he had had no idea at the time that his new hobby would grow into a full-blown career. Kallindo always seemed to be wallowing in shadows. `It will pass,' he reassured himself, `Like all things, it will pass.'

The two companions were drawing closer to Orophin's flet, which was their objective. They had gone out early that morning to practice with several other elves at the armory, and had both missed their breakfast. Hopefully, Adriel had left something edible out for them before she left to sit with the master weavers.

As they came around a bend in the path, Orophin almost tripped over a maiden, who was crouching down to pick up some dropped packets of herbs.

"Oh... Pardon me, my lady. I did not see you from around the bend... Here, let me help you."

Orophin leant down to pick up some of the paper packets. He tried to hand them to her, but only then did he realize that she had frozen in her movements, with a look of shock and distress on her face.

"Lady? Is something the matter?"

When she didn't answer, Orophin looked to Kallindo for help, only to find that he was in much the same state as the maiden. Both of them were still as stone.

Orophin waved a hand in front of Kallindo's face. "Hello... wake up my friend."

Kallindo blinked then sucked in a sharp breath. The maiden too seemed to come out of her trance. She took one tentative step backward and then bolted.

`Lady!" Orophin called after her, raising the packets that were still in his hands, "Your herbs-" But she was gone.

Orophin turned back to his companion with a puzzled look on his face. "What was all that about?" he began, but stopped when he saw the sickly pallor of Kallindo's face. "Kallindo, what is wrong?"

For several moments he received no answer, but eventually Kallindo spoke. "I...I've... I've lost her. Completely lost her."

The fog in Orophin's mind began to clear. "That was her wasn't it?"

Kallindo ignored the question. "Did you see how she ran from me? I... I did that. She was my friend... I did not always pursue her. She was always my friend, and now... now I don't even have that... I love her, but it's all gone... I have lost everything."

Orophin looked on with sad eyes as Kallindo sank to his knees and covered his face with his hands. Silence. Silence reigned for many long moments. After some while Orophin tried to get his friend to speak to him, but all his attempts failed. Eventually he decided to let him be. With reluctant steps he left Kallindo and made his way toward his flet. Now was not the time for conversation. What could be said?


"I am not!" Nessúlë cried in mock indignation.

Her four male companions just kept chuckling.

"Aye, you are too," countered Lantél, "Stubborn as a dwarf!" He turned to Elrohir and continued his narration. "She was so set on learning how to wield a sword when she was young that she pestered adar for months and months to let her train. Finally, to get her to stop he came to her one day and told her that she had to learn swordplay. And so, just because he was making her do it, she utterly refused to attend the lessons and said that she would rather muck out stalls than learn how to wield a blade."

Elrohir look over at Nessúlë and broke into a fresh bought of laughter when he saw the look of embarrassed consternation on her face. He didn't think that he'd ever seen her flustered before.

"Well..." she began to counter weakly, "Well, I grew out of it anyway..." Elrohir's laughter increased with that statement. Nessúlë's indignation flared up at his continued mirth, dispelling the former sense of shame. "Don't tell me you never did anything foolish as an elfling, Elrohir - I know better. Your sister has told me many a tale about your roguish past, and I daresay there's much, much more to tell."

Elrohir flashed her a quirky smile and replied. "I do not deny it. I was a living terror as a child. In fact, one of my fondest childhood memories is seeing my adar covered with mud, after having slid down the steep bank of a pond to fish out my mother's favorite shawl which I had accidentally dropped in."

Nessúlë just looked at him in stunned disbelief. How could he say that with such complacency? Very soon, however, her disbelief turned into satisfaction. Elrohir had been teasing her constantly for the last two hours, and as the horses walked slowly through a rather large patch of mud on the road, she came up with the perfect way to get him back. Sidling her horse up next to his, she favored him with a saccharine smile and asked, "Do you really find mud so amusing?" Before Elrohir could respond, Nessúlë darted her hand out and gave him a quick, forceful shove. Elrohir went over beautifully; there was no chance that he could maintain his seat. Unfortunately, he had better reflexes than Nessúlë had counted on, and so before he went entirely over he was able to snatch her arm and drag her right down with him.

Before she knew what was happening, Nessúlë found herself lying squarely on top of Elrohir, who in turn was lying, sprawled out, in a puddle of mud. One of Elrohir's arms was around her, and her face was pressed against his neck. Nessúlë lifted her head up quickly, not entirely comfortable with her current position. She was prevented from further movement by Elrohir's hold on her waist. His eyes caught hers for a moment and she froze. Frantically, she searched her mind for a way to take back control of the situation. All she could think of to say was, "At least I'm not the one in the mud." Immediately after the words passed her lips she knew that they were a mistake. The wicked gleam that had ignited in Elrohir's eyes could not be good. It wasn't.

Elrohir brought his other arm up to hold her to him... and rolled. Nessúlë now found herself in an even more uncomfortable position. Elrohir's body, lithe but strong, pressed her firmly into the muddy ground. The wicked gleam in his eyes spread throughout his entire face, until he was smirking down at her with calm, collected, infuriatingly smug, satisfaction. "To answer your question, my lady," he whispered, "Yes, I find mud to be very amusing."

Nessúlë glared back at him silently. She tried shoving him off her, but he was too heavy and strong. "Would you be so kind as to remove your person from my person?" she bit out testily.

"What do you think, Lantél," Elrohir called over his shoulder. "Should I let the little dwarf up?"

Nessúlë let out an indignant cry at his reference to her. "How dare you-"

She was cut off by Lantél laughter. "Aye, let her up. Though I would be careful to watch my back from now on if I were you. She has a long memory and a cunning mind."

Elrohir looked down at his captive and smiled. "I was not the one who started this quarrel." Nessúlë's eyes narrowed into slits, but she did not retort. Without saying another word, Elrohir rolled off of her, right back into the mud.

"I don't suppose that there is any place near here where we could wash up?" asked Nessúlë of Elladan, who had leant his hand to aid her in rising.

"There is a place some ways up the trail, but it will take at least an hour to arrive there."

"Oh well, I suppose we will survive. Shall we-"

Nessúlë's voice was cut by Alarkelu's hiss. "Sssh! I hear something."

They all paused and listened. Heavy feet, many heavy, distant feet were trudging across the ground. And there was a smell, a smell that sent shivers down their spine.


"They are to the southwest of us, not blocking our path," Elrohir spoke first. "The wind is on our side and will not give away our position away. We should be able to ride on in safety."

Elladan's brows furrowed. "But how is it that they are so close to home? We are less than two hours outside the borders of Imladris. This should not be. How could we be unaware of them?"

Elladan just shook his head. He did not know.

"They are marching toward Imladris!" Alarkelú whispered urgently. He had continued to listen intently and was certain now of the direction that the orcs were heading.

"We must ride back and warn them!" exclaimed Elrohir.

"Nay," Elladan replied, "For they stand between us and Imladris. It would be perilous to cross their path. One of us should go, but we cannot risk the whole company."

Elrohir's heart sank. He was that person. He knew that Elladan went to Lorien to see Oloriel, and the rest of the company went there to make a new life for themselves. But he... well, he did not need to be there. And yet, his heart ached at the thought of being separated from Nessúlë; they might never see each other again in Middle Earth.

Elladan too was thinking. He saw the subtle signs of Elrohir's distress and read them rightly. He knew that his brother was beginning to develop feelings for Nessúlë, but if they parted now, only the Valar knew if anything would ever come of it. He longed to see Oloriel, but at least he was sure of her affection. There was no question, no indecision between them. Sighing softly, he realized that he did not need this as much as his brother did.

Just as Elrohir opened his mouth to speak, Elladan jumped in. "I will go. I will go back."

Elrohir looked at him in amazement. Elladan tried to reassure him with a confident smile. "Send my love to grandmother and grandfather. And here, take this letter with you. It is from Arwen, should Estel pass through the Golden Wood." Elrohir just looked at his brother with a sad smile for several moments, and then reluctantly nodded his head.

"May we meet again in fairer times," Alarkelú spoke. Lantél and Nessúlë murmured their agreement.

"Come," Elrohir spoke softly, "we must go."

Elladan watched dejectedly as the others turned their horses and sped down the trail. He hoped that he had made the right decision. Reaching his hand up absent-mindedly, he clutched at the leather pouch that hung on its long cord from around his neck. "Anim hiraetha, meleth nín. Im ú-tha minna an le na aur; tirio an nin nedh ýl {I'm sorry, my love. I will not come to you by sunlight; watch for me in dreams}."


1. I know that a "trousseau" is generally associated with a bride, not just a woman, but work with me here...
2. Some of you might remember that AdrielofKeldor won Orophin in the first "Win a Cute Elf" raffle. I thought it would be fun to stick her name in there. ,_~

Things to Know:

Oloriel: "dream daughter"
Nessúlë: "young spirit"
Lantél: "shooting star"
Alarkelú: "swift stream"
Kallindo: "noble heart"
elleth: `she-elf'
adar/ada: `father/dad'

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