Ervinai bounced along the path beneath her talan, merrily greeting her neighbors while she hung on the arm of her older brother Runando. She picked her dress this day with care: a white-silver gown with long, flowing sleeves, split open at the elbows, allowing room for her arms to escape the long tendrils of fabric. The modest neckline and fitted bodice were embroidered with silver thread emanating the golden leaves around and her own smiling face. Ervinai’s appearance was only enhanced by Runando’s own finery, reserved for this special day.
The brother-sister pair slipped easily amongst the noisy throng headed towards the Festival Fields, an area in the wood where no trees grew: whether by Illuvitar’s providence, or by the elves’ wishes, no one knew. The sparring and archery fields were also there, making it tradition not only to have poetry recitations, singing, and feasting, but also to have tournaments testing the skill of the populace with blade and bow.
Ervinai gathered up her silver skirts and ran into Arwen’s wide open arms when they entered the festival grounds. A silent stranger stood beside the lauging Arwen, though Ervinai did not notice him until she was within her cousin’s embrace. Arwen was rosy and glowing: wearing a light greenish-colored gown and a silver circlet upon her generous unbound tresses, she looked every inch the young queen. She turned smilingly to the man at her right and Ervinai’s eyes easily followed the smooth motion.
The stranger wore a skillfully engraved crown spouting wings and a seedling. Ervinai knew him at once to be Aragorn. She slowly sunk into a deep curtsy, while taking a steadying breath to calm her nerves. Coming back up, she saw his blue eyes crinkle with solemn mirth as he nodded his head in return. He opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by a voice coming from behind Ervinai.
“Who is this, sister?” came the teasing interruption. Ervinai spun to face the mysterious voice’s owner. A tall, shapely, blonde elf stood in an attitude of laziness with one hand elegantly grasping a flask of wine and his opposite shoulder leaning against the tree to his side. His sea green eyes captured hers with interest and she found herself suddenly short of breath.
“A little early for drinking, don’t you think, brother?” Arwen replied, her smile dimming. She stepped forward into his embrace, then stood back quickly. Slowly, almost reluctantly, Arwen turned to Ervinai and drew her forward. “Ervinai, I’d like for you to meet my brother, albeit a pesky one, Elrohir. Elrohir, this is my good friend, and our cousin, Ervinai.”
“Cousin, did you say?” asked Elrohir. He sounded disappointed, but Ervinai was thankful for the reminder of their close relation to one another, it gave her more space to breathe, and she seemed to have run out of oxygen. She wondered promptly why she felt such attraction toward this elf. Then suddenly she had an inspiration. Lifting dancing eyes to meet Elrohir’s flat ones she replied a little over-brightly,
“Cousin it is. And you’d do well to remember it, milord.” She reached out a shaking hand to snatch up his wine flask, then, turning quickly, she pawned it off to a small elflet entering the clearing, making him promise to ensure the deposit of the wine into the nearest rubbish bin. Elrohir’s lips parted in protest, then he shut them together quickly. An amused smile spread fleetingly over his features before he caught up Ervinai’s cool hands in both of his too warm ones and pressed a mocking kiss into her curved fingers. Then, tucking her arm into the crook of his elbow, he looked down at her in a momentary playful grin before turning his face back to Arwen, her husband, and Runando saying briskly,
“And what a fine cousin she is indeed, to care so about my well-being! I shall forever be in your debt, my kind sister, for making this introduction.” He bowed to Arwen, winked at the two men, then strode off into the crowd with an astonished Ervinai in tow. Elrohir took profound delight in introducing his lovely cousin to every one of his acquaintances. He introduced her with such grandeur, such a flaunting air, that it often caused Ervinai to blush and duck her head. She met Haldir and his brothers, Rumil and Orophin. Elrohir also introduced her to his twin brother Elladan. The two brothers looked so alike that, had she not already an idea which one of them was really the rogue, she would have been at a loss of how to tell them apart.
Elrohir smoothly guided Ervinai in and out of the groups of people standing around chatting. Just as they were bypassing a larger group than any they had yet skirted, Ervinai found herself standing before their grandfather, lord of the wood.
“Come, Ervinai.” Lord Celeborn said, gripping her elbow firmly as he nodded towards Elrohir, who stepped back after giving his cousin a quick, apologetic grin. Celeborn led her unhurriedly on a winding path back the way she and Elrohir had fought to come. Yet, the sea of people parted like a wave for the lord and his granddaughter. Ervinai blushed furiously and watched her feet as people gazed upon her, awed. Celeborn led her to a place of honor at the head of the feasting tables.
The long tables were arranged expertly across one half of the open fields to allow for as many seats possible. Celeborn escorted Ervinai to stand on a raised platform constructed specifically for minstrels, poets, and other entertainments during the festival. Lord Celeborn signaled to an elf standing near the outskirts of the clearing, waiting for his lordship’s sign: the elf wore a small, silver horn, which looked petty hanging on his large, muscular form.
Ervinai watched from afar as the elf caught up the delicate horn in his long, sinuous fingers and wound it reverently, before holding it to his lips and blowing, long and clear. His chest puffed up and hardened, his tough face set firmly, but there was a sweet, translucent sound that came floating towards her upon the warm breeze as he blew and wound his horn and blew again. The sound was a thin stream of tinkling, honeyed liquid falling slowly to the ground from a high waterfall. It filled Ervinai’s head and opened her ears, all nervousness fleeing from her being. In that moment Ervinai came face-to-face with the magic of the elves, and it left her reeling.
The people standing round turned their heads toward the sound and unwittingly followed their ears until they found themselves being seated among the tables by attendants with cotton-stuffed ears. Mothers snapped out of the musical trance with difficulty to count their children, but fathers left everything to their wife’s attentions. Couples without children clasped each other’s hands fervently and gazed at nothing in particular. Elf children and youth were quiet, for once, listening to something besides their own fancies and whimpers.
Ervinai felt weak-kneed as she stood watching the first of the archery competitions take place. Fierce competitors lined up with bows pointed lethally across the arena at their targets. Across the field dynamic sparring matches had burst out and even further down there were still sporadic feasters lounging at the long tables. Everyone mingled from one event to another, strolling aimlessly from here to there, enjoying the warmth of the sun overhead and the non-stressed atmosphere of the festival. Elves crowded around barrels of wine, talking loudly, while golden leaves flitted resignedly from the forest ceiling to floor.
Celeborn surprised Ervinai, and everyone else too, by asking her to open the festivities properly with a prayer to Illuvitar, thanking Him for their bounty after a hard year’s work. Her stomach had dropped right through the floor of the platform, she was sure. Yet she got through it somehow. She gave thanks now that she had not fainted. Ooo, that would have been horrible! She giggled. But her Lord had not abandoned her.