Disclaimer: see chapter one
Names/Pronunciations will come at the end of each chapter.
`*’ signals a footnote
“text” signals dialogue
`text’ signals thoughts
Chapter 9.) Expectations
Yet, You may not come, O girl of a dream, We may but pass as the world goes by
– Carl Sandburg
Aug 14, 12 Fourth Age
Nessúlë let her eyes trail along the ground as she swept noiselessly beneath the evergreen boughs. The cool stillness of the night air and the thick layer of pine needles beneath her feet were comforting, but they did not prevent Nessúlë’s heart from picking up a staccato beat. She was nearing her destination – her destiny, perhaps?
Shaking her head, Nessúlë pulled the hood of her cloak closer around her face and then let her left hand wander beneath the folds of fabric to rest against the pommel of a long knife. She was not the sort of simpleton to rendezvous with a strange man in a dark forest unprotected. And yet, she felt silly even now for taking the weapon. To walk armed into the arms of a potential lover seemed to be the crowning irony of her life.
`I have yet to lay down my sword,’ she mused, `and yet… now that it comes to it, I believe I am ready for such a measure. I have dwelt in this marshal skin of mine for a good many years, and will probably never be rid of it, but…’ Her thoughts were cut off as she came out from behind a tree of immense girth and saw, in the distance, the silhouette of a cloaked Elf.
To Nessúlë’s surprise a shivering thrill skittered up her spine. It was he: the one who wrote so tenderly, with such wit and passion and thoughtfulness. At that moment Nessúlë was struck with the reality of it all. It was no dream – he was truly there, truly alive and breathing and wanting her.
She couldn’t move a step further. What did this mean? She had never been, to the best of her knowledge, loved before, as a female. She had never loved anyone as a male. For the first time in many years Nessúlë felt downright naïve and inexperienced. What would she say? How would she act? How long would it take for her to fall in love with him? Would his first look, his first word, his first touch, be enough?
Leaning against the rough bark of a tree Nessúlë inhaled a shaky sigh. With trembling fingers she withdrew a note from the pocket in her cloak. It was the poem.
…Or, if your wish be to close me, I and my life will shut very suddenly
As when the heart of a flower imagines the cold frost everywhere descending…
Did she really have that kind of power over this Elf? Was she so very vital to him? That thought caused a tender smile to appear on her face. It was nice to be needed. But it was also very solemn. If this Elf loved her as his words proclaimed then she could harm him as well as exalt him.
Nessúlë pushed off the tree. She was decided. If this ellon was as inviting as she imagined, and if her heart was able, she would accept his affection and endeavor to return it. It was fitting. There was no honor in shunning the love of a good Elf. If things did not work out than they did not work out, but she was determined that it would not be for a lack of warmth on her part.
Nessúlë worked to keep her breathing steady as she stepped out from the shadow of a gnarled Aspen. Her unknown Elf stood beside a large, etched boulder with a brown cloak covering him from head to toe. The ancient rock was carved with the tale of the Awakening* and the Elf was running his fingers lightly along the grooves of the letters with his back turned to where Nessúlë now stood.
For several moments Nessúlë merely stared at the stranger, taking in his size and stance, his quiet movements and bowed head. He seemed to be quite a proper Elf, though she did wish that she could see his face. But, aside from sneaking about in the brush, the only way that this would happen was if she made herself known to him. Without further ado she placed her foot on a fallen branch and pressed down, snapping off several small twigs. The cloaked figure paused then reached up and drew his hood over his head. Nessúlë found it hard to refrain from pouting, for it would now be impossible to see his features plainly.
With deliberate steps the stranger turned toward Nessúlë and crossed most of the distance between them. The hood of his cloak fell low over his brow and close around his face, concealing almost everything. Without speaking, he held out a gloved right hand to her, while raising his left index finger to his lips to signal silence. Nessúlë was about to protest when a breathy chuckle escaped the Elf and he shook his head slowly, once more beckoning for her hand. With a slight roll of the eyes, but also with a faint smile, Nessúlë took the proffered hand and was led, wordlessly, toward some unknown destination.
In the months and years which followed Nessúlë was never very inclined to speak of that first journey with her mysterious lover. It was so dream-like and peaceful, strolling hand-in-hand through the dew and the silvery moonlight, that the memory of it became quite warm and hazy in her mind and did not bear much repeating. Suffice it to say that, when the couple finally stepped from the trees and onto an outcropping of rock that hung gloriously over the rushing torrent of Bruinen’s greatest waterfall, Nessúlë felt both intensely quiet and comfortingly peaceful, even as her cheeks flushed with the nearness of her guide. Indeed, she was grown so subdued that she did not hesitate for a moment when her tall companion drew her close to the edge of the cliff and stood brushing shoulders with her in the whipping mist of the falls.
For many minutes Nessúlë did not feel the need to speak. The silence was not even silence at all, for the nature that surrounded them was a riotous symphony in itself. Nessúlë thought that she understood why her companion had brought her there. It was the sort of place where you could lose yourself; everything was grand and wild.
`Just the sort of place,’ she thought, `where I would have chosen to fall in love. How can this Elf know me so well? …Does it even matter?’
Nessúlë decided that it truly did not matter. For at least one night she was ready to lay everything at the feet of destiny.
And what a grand destiny it was. She was poised above the mists, delighting in the roar of the water and the warm hand of an Elf whom she had yet to truly see. Yet she was not afraid or confused or ill at ease. She was exactly where she wanted to be. Like when she was with Elrohir in the honeysuckle.
Nessúlë stiffened a little bit as this idea ran circles through her mind. She blinked; a wave of mist swirled around her as the breeze picked up, then the moment past. Her senses stretched out to gather up ever fragrance and caress of the wind and, with a laugh, she thrust the uneasiness from herself. Her light cloak, now damp, flapped carelessly around her legs and her hood flew back, releasing the dark waves of her hair. Nessúlë laughed again, shaking out her mane and turning to look up at the silent one beside her.
`He is here with me,’ she thought, `how silly to let my thoughts wander.’
She found that the taciturn Elf had been looking at her for some time and she dropped her eyes for a moment, self-consciously. But then she shook her head again and met his eyes strongly. From her current position she could just make out, within the folds of his cloak, the slender curve of his lips smiling at her and the dim glow of starlight in his eyes. His eyes were mesmerizing to her. Whether this was because of their inner light or because of Nessúlë’s fluttering spirit or because of the mystery of it all none shall ever know. But they were mesmerizing, and so, without thought Nessúlë drew nearer to him, peering all the while up into his eyes.
Had she been paying closer attention to other things, Nessúlë could have, at that moment, caught a glimpse of all his features together, but when the Elf leaned his head toward her the shadows of his hood deepened. When Nessúlë did not shy away from his first movement, the Elf drew nearer still and soon their two shadowed faces were mere inches from each other, the Elf’s own voluminous hood brushing against Nessúlë’s cheeks. A few very still moments past before the elleth could find the will to speak.
“Will you not say anything, my lord?” she finally whispered, her lips twitching upward in a coy smile.
The Elf’s own smile widened as he took off one of his gloves and trailed the fingers of his free hand along her cheek before pushing her thick hair back and drawing her face closer to his own. He waited until his lips were already brushing against the corner of her mouth to whisper one word: “Nessúlë.”
For the briefest of moments Nessúlë was conscious of the fact that she had heard this voice before. But then her lips were captured by the warm mouth of her enigma and rational thought slipped hopelessly into the background.
The Elf’s caress was tentative at first, craving her permission; when she did not draw away it became deeper but still unhurried, his lips plying against her own with restrained desire. Slowly, he let his arm slip inside her cloak and around her waist, drawing her more snuggly against himself. Nessúlë yielded to him, leaning against his chest and sliding one hand up and around his neck, pushing the hood back as she did so. She felt the tension across his shoulders and realized how deliberately gentle he was being with her. His thoughtfulness added extra warmth to the kiss and she responded by letting her fingers massage the muscles at the base of his neck. When the Elf felt her cool fingers against his skin he pulled back from the kiss, resting his cheek against her hair and holding her to him.
Nessúlë smiled giddily as she pressed her face into the Elf’s shoulder. Was this what love felt like? She didn’t quite know, but was more than willing to find out. She felt a kinship with this Elf, a deep connection. Could it be that she had found her mate?
“Thank you, my lady. You do my great honor.”
A soft voice cut through the air and smote Nessúlë’s heart like the straight steal of a broadsword. Jumping back from the comfortable embrace Nessúlë looked up into a pair of familiar brown eyes. She felt suddenly colder, though whether it was due to the lack of contact or to this startling revelation she could not say.
“Elrohir?” she questioned, almost frantically.
He smiled down at her reassuringly and reached out to steady her, but she was in no state of mind to interpret his gesture correctly. Shaking off his hand she took several steps backward and met his eyes with accusation.
“How could you, Elrohir?” her voice quavered noticeably, “How could you do such a thing? Play such a cruel trick?”
Elrohir’s face melted into a look of sincere remorse, “Never, my lady. I would never do such a thing. How could you think it possible?”
Nessúlë’s back stiffened. “I have heard of your exploits, son of Elrond. You are known for taking your ruses too far. Well it has gone far enough.” Her voice was icy.
“It was no ruse!” Elrohir cried passionately. “All this,” he let his arm sweep out in an arc, “All this was real. I…” he faltered somewhat, “I didn’t know how else to tell you that… I love you.”
A choked cry came out of Nessúlë. “How can you be so unkind?” she exclaimed. “How can you continue to make such a sport of me? I know very well that you do not love me. I had thought that we were friends. Perhaps we are not even that any more. Am I but a source of entertainment?” Nessúlë’s voice was rising in anger and volume. “You lied to me! You have made me look like a fool! Oh Valar, you have made me act like a fool!”
Nessúlë turned and began to storm away through the trees but she was brought to a halt when Elrohir grabbed her arm and swung her around.
“Nay, it is not so,” he spoke forcefully, “Please do not say that I have lost you forever because of my ill-conceived plan. I beg your forgiveness. But do not believe that it was done to spite you.” Elrohir knelt before her and took her hand. “I never meant to hurt you. I love you. …Ask what you will and I will do it.”
Nessúlë felt as though she was about to be ill. She didn’t know what to believe. Her sense of reality had been severely battered that night and she couldn’t be certain of what she used to think were truths. All she wanted was to be alone. A single tear slid down her cheek and she ruthlessly swiped it away with her free hand.
“Elrohir,” she spoke as firmly as she could, which was not very firm. “You have bruised my heart, and I… I don’t know if or when it will get better. I feel cheated and abused… and stupid. You have taken my good faith and trammeled upon it. You have struck me where I was most vulnerable. Right now, I simply need… I need,” her breath caught roughly and she paused for a moment. “I need,” she began again, “to not see you right now. I am leaving. Please… don’t follow me.”
1. The Awakening – Awakening at Cuiviénen: the birth of the Elves
Nessúlë: “young spirit”
Elrohir: “Elf knight”