The voice spoken in the quiet evening shadows, made Elrohir lift his head wearily from where it had been resting dejectedly within his hands as he sat upon a stone bench on the edge of a high veranda. Below the balustrade, he could see the glow of the forge through the trees, and hear the faint rhythmic ring of hammer against metal. The sound brought a little hope to his heart, though but a very little.
“My lady.” He returned, struggling to smile up at the lady Ithilwen who smiled down upon him, though her smile was sad as well.
“I thought you would like some refreshment.” The maiden continued, nodding at the tray within her hands, bearing a glass of fresh wine, and a small plate of fruit. “You’ve eaten little since your return.”
“Thank you.” He smiled gratefully as the maiden set the tray upon a small table beside him, and for her sake, he lifted the glass and took a small sip. “You were thoughtful to bring this to me. Lord Glorfindel is fortunate indeed, to have won your favors.”
Ithilwen smiled shyly and blushed at the name as she took the empty place beside him. “He was well when you left him?”
“He was.” Elrohir smiled, somewhat cheered at the light of love he could see within the maiden’s eyes. “It would have done your heart good to see his eyes when I suggested he return in my place, so that he could be with you again.”
“It does my heart well enough to hear of it.” She responded good-naturedly. “And it is his way to think of his duty first. The good of others has always come before his own pleasure.”
“Indeed it has.” Elrohir agreed, taking another sip.
“He is so good and wise. Sometimes I wonder what it is he sees in me, and I wonder if I am truly worthy of him.” Ithilwen sighed, the sound soft and plaintive. “He has seen so much. So deep are his eyes and filled with such wisdom-,” she managed a trembling smile. “Sometimes I sense in him, a strange sadness. Something I cannot touch, or heal-, I wish I could.”
“Ai, my lady.” Elrohir cut in gently. “His heart is deep. And he carries many memories there, of both misery and also of happiness.” He smiled at the maiden reassuringly, and she returned it. “He loves you, my lady. And I can see in your eyes, that you love him.” Ithilwen flushed at this, and bent her head, though he could see she was pleased by his words. “What you cannot mend, you make endurable for him. And that is enough to bring him some measure of healing.” A shadow crossed his mind, and his eyes fell as he spoke his next words. “Though what can be done for Arwen, I cannot say.”
At the name, Ithilwen’s smile faded to a look of sorrow and she sighed, for she understood the meaning of his words. And for a long moment, the two Elves sat beneath the silence as the faint ringing of the smithy’s hammer continued to echo below them.
“She will not sail, for her love of one of the Edain.” Elrohir murmured softly, more to himself than to her. “And now she is fading. And as the darkness spreads-, she cannot last long against it, unless it is defeated.”
He felt a hand, soft upon his shoulder, and he looked up into her eyes, warm with compassion and sympathy.
“It will be defeated, my lord.” Ithilwen assured him gently. “It will be. Lady Arwen will be well again, and Lady Lalaith will return safe and whole, if only wiser for her journeys.”
He smiled sadly at her words. “You are very kind, Lady Ithilwen.” He murmured with a sigh. “Your thoughts, like your lord’s, always turned upon others.” He smiled sadly, and placed his hand over hers where it rested upon his arm. “Never wonder if you are worthy of him, my lady. For you are.”
“Elrohir?” His brother’s voice, taut, almost frantic, came at him through the somber night’s silence, shattering his moment of restless peace.
“Elladan.” He gasped, shooting to his feet as his elder twin came into view from around the corner of the veranda. Beside Elrohir, Ithilwen rose as well, though more slowly, waiting with bated breath, her face showing that she feared as he did, that Elladan brought ill news.
“What is it?” Elrohir demanded. “Is it Arwen?” His blood stilled at the thought, and he dared not speak further.
Elladan shook his head. “She is as weak as before. Miriel sits with her, and I will return to her side soon as well. But father wishes to see you. Now. He has news from Lórien. From Grandmother.”
Elrohir’s heart roiled at his brothers words. News from Lórien? Good or ill? Turning quickly, he offered Ithilwen a nod of apology. “By your leave, my lady-,”
“Of course.” Ithilwen quickly nodded her farewell, and with that, he turned and rushed after his brother.
“You wish me to make a journey across the mountains to Lothlórien?” Elrohir demanded softly, wondering if he had heard his father’s words correctly. His question echoed softly in his father’s study, amid the warm, familiar scent of parchment and aged tomes. “Now? But I dare not leave Arwen. Not now, when she is so near to-,”
Beneath the flickering light of lamps, Elrond’s back stiffened, and Elrohir let his words die, for he could sense his father’s deep pain. He clenched his jaw, forcing his own fear for his younger sister away into a distant corner of his heart.
“Had Lord Glorfindel returned in your stead, I would have sent him.” Elrond muttered in a low voice. “And I must have your brother stay here, to watch over-,” his voice choked slightly, “your sister. As for me, I must now take my own urgent journey-,”
“What is the purpose for which I am needed?” Elrohir asked softly, his tone subdued, and Elrond, his eyes swollen with unshed tears turned slowly to face him, his eyes searching Elrohir’s silently.
Elrond sighed, his eyes lowering as he stepped nearer to his younger son, and he drew in a slow breath. “A young maiden, a stranger to the Golden Wood, was found wandering at the western edge of the wood. Near to where the Nimrodel joins the Celebrant.”
Elrohir shifted his weight at this, and folded his arms. A sense of heavy foreboding cast itself across his heart, but he said nothing.
A twist of pain made its way across Elrond’s face. “She was clad in naught but the ragged garments of an orc-,”
“A captive, escaped from them?” Elrohir choked, his mind flashing, without his willing it, back many centuries to his own mother’s rescue. The black cave, orcs at every turn, and his mother, his dear, beautiful mother, bruised and bloodied upon the floor-, His father, he could see in Elrond’s face, was remembering the same living nightmare as well. What hideous torments had the poor maiden endured, before she managed to make her way free?
“And held long by them, I fear.” Elrond nodded, his jaw tightening. “For she seemed frightened of the Galadhrim at first, as if she thought they meant her harm. She cannot remember even her own name, nor from where her kin hail.” Elrond swallowed softly and murmured, “But she remembers the name Glorfindel. It is the only word she speaks.”
Elrohir nodded slowly, “And you wish for me to go in his stead?”
Elrond nodded, his brow knotting as a look of distant pain came into his eyes. “Though it is not you she calls for, your grandmother believes you can draw this maiden from the last remnants of darkness that cling to her soul. That perhaps through your help, and-, with the passing of the darkness, this poor child might fully recover.”
Elrohir swallowed hard at this. Galadriel, wiser than any other being he knew, thought he could do this. And if it was he who, in Glorfindel’s absence, could help this poor nameless maiden, he would do it.
“Then I will go, Father. As you wish me to.” He murmured softly, and bowed his head, before he turned to make his way out the door.
“Yes, Father?” Elrohir asked, turning back.
“May your journey fare well, my son.” A thin thread of a smile touched Elrond’s face as he stepped forward and drew his youngest son to him in a swift embrace.
“And yours, Father.” Elrohir murmured, tightening his jaw as Elrond stepped back, observing his son soberly before Elrohir bowed his leave, and turned, striding quickly from the room.