Feawen whirled to face the trees, her heart drumming madly. With shaking fingers she notched an arrow, but even before she drew her bow she knew that she could never shoot. This was an elf she was facing. It was one of her own kin. Golden-haired and grey-eyed, the elf was tall, and wore his hair tied behind him. He carried a long-bladed throwing knife.
Behind her she heard the rasp of steel as Aramel drew her sword. For a moment nobody spoke. Then the elf, in Sylvan, said, “I mean you no harm.”
The tongue was unfamiliar to her, she being of the Noldor from Valinor, but she gathered the meaning, and lowered her bow slowly.
“What are you doing here, and why?” she demanded in Westron.
A flicker of annoyance mixed with surprise passed over the elf’s face.
“I am free to come and go as I will,” he said stiffly in Westron, “This is not your wood.”
Feawen took a deep breath and counted to ten. When she spoke, it was in a painfully clear and polite voice.
“I am aware of that, sir,” she said, “and I apologise for my rudeness. However, it were best that you tell us who you are and your purpose in following us, to prevent–misunderstandings.”
The elf’s brows snapped together in a frown. “I am Tarolore, from Lorien. And I am not following you. I am following a band of Orcs who took two elf-children. Nay,” he said, “not those that attaked you, but another, smaller band of Orcs, slain by the man who dwelt in this cottage.” His gaze took in the still-burning cottage.
“Not knowing that they were Elves, they took the children in, and treated them with love. They were puzzled that the children did not grow, and I had not the heart to come and take the children from them. Five years of the sun have I wandered in these woods, always thinking to show myself, but never doing so. Until now. I could not fight fifty Orcs, but I did not flee. These children are all that I have left.”
“Who are they?” Aramel interrupted intrestedly.
“Their names are Ithilwen and Elorne. Ithilwen is two yen the elder. They are the children of my late sister, who was killed while wandring outside Lorien with the children, the same time the children were taken. I have no other kin, and I persued them alone, for no elf would come with me.” He turned his face away.
A moment later he spoke again. “We must not stay here. More Orcs may come. You are welcome to come and stay with me tonight, and tell me what you are doing here.”
Feawen smiled at the irony, then said, “Of course we will come.”
Tarolore’s home was actually a flet in a tall birch tree crowned with a far-distant canopy of green, after the manner of the Galadhrim of Lorien. No fire was lit, though the night was cool, and they wrapped themselves in cloaks, as Feawen told of their purpose.
“We seek to raise a sanctuary in the south. The shadow will come again, and when it comes, we must be ready.”
Tarolore’s eyes glowed. “Do you mean that we will build a place like Rivendell, or Lorien, or even as Doriath of old, where all may be at peace?”
“It may be,” cut in Aramel. “And where nobody will insist upon propriety,” she could not help adding bitterly.
Tarolore looked at her for a long time, his face thrown into relief by the light of the half-moon. “There will be propriety at all times,” he said. “The reason that one does not rage at everybody one meets is propriety. The reason that one wears clothing is propriety. You mean that you dislike a certain type of propriety. That is understandable. To say that you dislike all types of propriety is ridiculous, and to rail against it is bitter.”
Aramel flushed red and held her tongue, glad that the light was dim.
Feawen looked from one to the other, and decided that it was time to change the subject.
“So, Tarolore, will you come with us?”
There was silence for a while. Then Tarolore said softly, “Aye, I will come. I will help found this sanctuary.”
“That is good,” said Feawen, still formal, “Shall we start tomorrow, then?”
“Very well. There is only one flet, as I do not expect company, but the two of you may sleep here, and I will perch in the next tree.” He swung away.
Feawen and Aramel lay down on the firm wood of the flet, using their bundles for pillows. For a long while there was silence, then softly Aramel spoke, looking at the sea-washed moon rising steadily in the sky, as it had done for ages uncounted. Ancient and untouchable, it brought thought and reflection.
“Do you think I am too impulsive and bitter?” she whispered.
“I think not,” said Feawen. “Just remember, next time, think before you say somthing, and let past things pass. It is not good to hold grudges.”
“I will,” whispered Aramel softly, as tears flowed silently down her face.
The night wore on, and silence reigned, save for the night-speech and whisperings of leaf and stone, and the murmur of the wind in the branches.