Disclaimer: see chapter one
Names/Pronunciations will come at the end of each chapter.
“text” signals dialogue
`text’ signals thoughts
Chapter 8.) Brink of Discovery
Hush all the loud confusion of the heart
– Rupert Brooke
Aug 14, 12 Fourth Age
“You two are in a rare mood this morning,” Elladan spoke fondly as he leaned down to kiss the top of his wife’s head.
Oloriel merely smiled up at her husband and then, after shooing him away, went back to talking with Nessúlë. The two ellith had been whispering to each other since breakfast ended. For a passing moment Elladan keenly desired to know of what they spoke, but he pushed the feeling aside. If they wanted him to know they would tell him.
Before exiting the breakfast room Elladan cast a long-suffering look toward his grandfather, who shook his head knowingly as if to say “they will carry on” and then turned back to whatever it was he had been reading. Elladan chuckled softly and stepped from the room. When he had gone several yards down the hallway he met Elrohir.
“The ladies are in high spirits this morning,” Elladan mentioned after good-mornings had been exchanged, “One would think they had been deprived of female companionship for an age. They are sharing secrets no doubt and appear quite giddy.”
Elrohir smoothed his tunic, which looked like it had just been thrown on, and replied absently, “Well that’s nice.”
Elladan looked curiously at his brother. The Elf seemed distracted and rather unkempt. Without word Elladan reached out and straightened Elrohir’s collar.
“Are you well?”
Batting away his brother’s hands, Elrohir smiled crookedly and nodded. “Yes, just a little preoccupied. I am sorry that I missed breakfast.”
Elladan shrugged. “It is well, there is still enough left for you. And don’t rush yourself, I’ve decided to take your place in the council today.”
Elrohir looked up in surprise, a silent question on his face.
“I know that you have not enjoyed carrying my duties since Oloriel has been pregnant. She will be well enough without me this day and I think you will use the time wisely. Araucon has requested a reassignment of guards along the southwest wall of the valley. I would appreciate it if you met with him this afternoon at the fifth guard-post, but other than that your time is your own.”
Elrohir grinned broadly. He had not spoken with his good friend Araucon in some time, and he knew that his brother knew this. It was a welcome task.
After parting ways with Elladan, Elrohir moved down the hallways and entered the room with a stirring of trepidation. Celeborn was just getting up from his chair and setting his book aside. The two ellith were, as predicted, conversing with each other in inaudible tones on the settee in the corner. When Elrohir walked up to the breakfast table, Nessúlë and Oloriel both looked up and then glanced questioningly at one another.
“Perhaps you will be let into their confidence,” Celeborn said mysteriously before walking through a curtained doorway into the gardens below.
Elrohir selected a peach for the fruit basket, but did not eat it. Instead, he let his hands play with it and turned to the ladies.
“What is all this whispering about? Apparently you have driven all the other males away.” Elrohir grinned and put the untouched peach back on the table. “You won’t find me so timid.”
Nessúlë grinned self-consciously. “Well, you already know some of it, so I suppose…”
“Yes,” Oloriel remarked, “I do wonder that you knew so much before I did.”
“New what?” Elrohir inquired.
Oloriel picked up a folded piece of paper and waved it in the air. “The admirer.”
Elrohir’s face stilled and he shifted to lean against the table behind him. “Ah yes, him.”
After receiving an encouraging nod from Nessúlë, Oloriel continued. “Apparently he wants to meet her, face to face, tonight.”
Nessúlë twisted the napkin she was holding in her lap and bit her lip. Her expression hung somewhere between exasperation and excitement. “Yes,” she sighed loudly, “You see, that is my dilemma. Oloriel has been urging me to go, and I cannot deny that I am very… curious. But doesn’t it seem foolish to you?” Nessúlë gazed at Elrohir with expectant eyes.
Elrohir did not answer for a moment. He picked the peach back up and began tossing it from hand to hand. Finally he broke the silence, his eyes remaining on the fruit. “What will you do if he asks you for a return of affection?”
Nessúlë blushed slightly, but Elrohir did not see it. “I… I’ve decided not to worry about that yet. It seems that I will have to meet him before I can come to any conclusions. You know, see what happens.”
Elrohir looked up and out through a window. “Then I suggest,” he paused and his jaw clenched almost imperceptibly. “I suggest that you do whatever you are ready to do. If you feel uncomfortable or insecure than do not go. If you feel prepared then meet with him.”
Nessúlë nodded slowly. “Thank you, that is very sensible. I did so want to hear your thoughts on the matter.”
Elrohir looked directly at Nessúlë for the first time and a soft light came into his eyes. “Thank you, lady, for putting so much trust in me.”
Oloriel smiled and got up from the settee, placing her teacup back on the breakfast table. “Well, I have several tasks to occupy my morning. Have you any planned amusement, Nessúlë, or shall you come with me?”
“I thought that I would take a long ride. Hithui has been yearning for some solid exercise over the past few days.”
“Why don’t you come with me,” Elrohir offered, “I am riding south in a half-hour’s time. I have a few words to speak with the Warden there, but it shouldn’t take long. And we could stay out as long as you like.”
Nessúlë readily agreed and went to change out of her light, cream-colored robes. When she departed Oloriel turned to her brother-in-law with a brilliant smile.
“I didn’t think you were so sly,” she teased, “sending her secret love notes. I just hope that she won’t be angry with you when you tell her. … But no, she won’t be angry, I don’t think. For I believe that she is much more affected than she seems, almost giddy…”
Oloriel’s voice trailed off as she noticed the strained set of Elrohir’s shoulders and his tense jaw. “Elrohir, you are the one behind all this… aren’t you?”
Nessúlë glared at Elrohir as she pulled Hithui up next to his roan stallion. “Cheater.”
Elrohir’s clear laughter rang through the forest. “Sore loser.”
Hithui stamped his hoof and stepped into the shade of a nearby tree. Nessúlë chuckled and shook her head. “Fair enough, son of Elrond. Your steed is swift and sure-footed. Well done.”
Elrohir bowed his acceptance. Then dismounted and called his horse to follow. “Come, lady, the outpost is just around the bend. We will take our repast there.”
Elrohir looked out of the arrow slit and down to where Nessúlë sat with a few of the guards feasting on roasted trout. She was merrily licking her fingers as several of the Elves entertained her with lively conversation. He narrowed his eyes perceptibly as a certain ellon draped his arm around Nessúlë’s shoulder and whispered something in her ear. Apparently it was highly amusing, for Nessúlë’s bright laughter could be heard wafting up into the treetops. Nonetheless, to Elrohir’s great relief, she did gently nudge Elf away from her.
“That’s a fine lady you’ve brought with you.” The voice of Araucon pierced Elrohir’s thoughts and he turned away from the window.
“She is the one who went with Elladan’s lady to Gondor, is she not?” he continued.
Elrohir nodded. “Aye, the same.”
Araucon smiled mischievously. “You should hear some of the lads speak of her. They are caught somewhere between veneration and desire. If she were not so aloof I daresay some of them would have made advances by now.”
“Aloof?” Elrohir spoke softly, trying to rein in his own disgruntled emotions.
Araucon shrugged as he ordered a few papers and slipped them inside a leather cover. “She does not appear to be easily moved, does she?”
Elrohir did not reply, merely took the leather sleeve from his friend and bowed in farewell. “Till next we meet, friend Araucon.”
Araucon bowed as well. “Yes, till then. …I hope you have luck with her.”
Turning back from the doorway Elrohir eyed his friend warily.
“I see many things,” Araucon grinned, “And I hear many more. Be well, son of Elrond.”
Elrohir inclined his head and then left, shaking his head in exasperation. Was he that transparent?
Nessúlë burst into laughter at the soldier’s suggestion. She swatted his arm away in a friendly manner and then shook her head jovially. “That is one of the most audacious things I have ever heard. Elrohir is certainly not in love with me. What gave you such an idea?”
The Elf turned back to his meal with a knowing smirk. “It is obvious to many, my lady.”
This gave Nessúlë pause. “What do you mean?”
“You know,” he raised his eyebrows, “How your friendship has survived through separation, how you are together, his manner, that sort of thing. Many see it.”
Nessúlë bristled. “I do not think that there has been anything unseemly in his manner. And just because we enjoy each other’s company does not mean that either one of us is in love with the other. That makes no sense. I spend just as much time with Oloriel as I do with Elrohir. How can you bandy such rumors about your lord?”
The Elf shook his head. “No, no, no. I did not mean to imply anything unbefitting. I simply meant that the way you both are when you’re together has bred curiosity on this point. It’s as if you both become lost to the world. But I beg your pardon. You are right, it was not my place to make any assumptions.”
There was no time for Nessúlë to reply, for at that moment Elrohir came into the circle and sat down next to her.
“Enjoying your meal?” Elrohir inquired innocently.
Nessúlë felt flustered and a tad bit vulnerable under the merry eyes of the patrolmen. Who knew what they could be thinking? Unconsciously, she shifted slightly toward Elrohir, but then realized what she was doing and sat up, ramrod straight.
“It was delicious,” she finally managed to reply, setting down her tin plate. “Shall we move on?”
Elrohir signaled his horse to stop and cast a withering glance at his companion. “You refuse to tell me what is wrong, don’t you?”
Nessúlë wove her fingers through Hithui’s mane and pursed her lips. “It is nothing, Elrohir, will you please stop being so persistent?”
The Elf looked at her for a moment and then dismounted his horse, walking off into the trees without a word. Nessúlë, caught off guard by his odd behavior, dismounted as well and slowly followed him to see where he would go. Not many minutes had passed before she found herself in an arbor of honeysuckle. Elrohir lay, eyes closed, in the middle of the fray on a bed of moss and interlacing vines. She looked down on him and could not help smiling.
“What are you dreaming of?” she asked quietly.
Elrohir smiled and patted the ground beside him. Nessúlë rolled her eyes and lay down, staring up into the green and yellow canopy that hung above her with hints of blue sky peeking through. She breathed in the sweet scent of the honeysuckle and sighed.
“One of the guardsmen said something unsettling to me, that is all. I do not want to talk about it.”
Elrohir made a soft noise in his throat and nodded his head. His eyes remained closed. Nessúlë pursed her lips and waited. Quite some time passed by and still Elrohir lay there, breathing evenly. As she rested in the perfumed air and listened to the sound of Elrohir’s steady breaths Nessúlë began to feel a calm settling over her. Confusion melted away and she was simply a maiden in the middle of a wood, surrounded by rich earth and blue sky, lying next to a dear friend. And it was the most natural thing in the world. She smiled. How silly to think that it would be any other way.
With childlike enthusiasm Nessúlë smiled brightly and rolled over to lay her head on Elrohir’s chest. “Thank you, old friend,” she whispered, “you make me feel better just by being near.”
A sharp intake of breath caused Nessúlë to raise her head and look up at Elrohir curiously. And then it happened again. Just like the time on the ravine wall Nessúlë found herself unable to look away. Elrohir’s brown eyes met hers steadily and both of them forgot to breathe for several moments. It was exactly where she wanted to be… no!
“Forgive me,” Nessúlë finally whispered, dragging her eyes away and sitting up, “That was rather silly, wasn’t it?”
She half wanted him to deny it, to say that he enjoyed having her near, but he gave no response. She set her jaw and shook her head to clear it of the fog. “Shall we be heading home then?”
Elrohir murmured something that could have been anything, but Nessúlë took it as an affirmative. Silently she rose and stepped out of the honeysuckle, leaving Elrohir behind to go and find the horses.
Elrohir watched in a turmoil of emotions as Nessúlë left the stables and went into the house. On their ride home she had declared her intention of meeting her unknown suitor to break the silence. He hadn’t known how to respond. Another silence had developed, which he broke by mentioning that Oloriel had finally picked out a name for the baby should it be a girl. The rest of the journey home had been pleasant enough. But no pleasantness could erase how foolish Elrohir felt at the moment.
`Why couldn’t I think of something to say?’ he chided himself over and over again. `How could I let her believe that I was somehow displeased? Stupid, Elrohir, so stupid.’
He leant his head against the post of the stall. This had to end. He had to tell her before his own uncertainty caused her more harm. His mind was set. The plan would go through, despite his misgivings. He would tell her and let her choose.
Nessúlë sat on her bed, moonbeams streaming in through the window, with the latest letter spread on the sheets before her.
…I presume to say even that I love you. Will you not at least repay my love with a glance? If your brave heart would answer this plea, come…
The words were so beguiling, so rich in wonder. Would it not be well to respond warmly to this suite? If the Elf proved himself of upright character, why not encourage it? Her confused dealings with Elrohir had convinced Nessúlë that her heart was growing wild and unpredictable in its cage. Why not release it and tame it? Then the world could be set right again. She and Elrohir would be set right again. Her place in the world would be clear, and there would be no more perplexity
With a concise nod, Nessúlë rose from her bed and selected a light cloak from her closet. It was time. A shiver ran down her spine. Would he speak poetry, hold her in his arms, kiss her? Would he be insufferable, his writing a façade? Would she… could she love him?
There was only one way to find out.
Things to Know:
Nessúlë: “young spirit”
ellon: “Elf (male)”
ellith: “Elves (female)”