“Ah, Elrohir.” Celeborn called in a warm voice, from where he stood at the crest of a set of silver steps overlaying the sloping root of a great Mallorn. His hands were outspread in welcome, appearing as ever, the noble Lord of Lórien that he was as Elrohir drew his mount to a halt beneath the soft golden glow of Caras Galadhon, and leapt from the saddle.
“You have come safe, in spite of our worries.” Celeborn continued as Elrohir turned the reins over to a youthful, fair haired boy who accepted them with eager eyes. The lad could hardly be any older than fifty, yet he seemed capable enough, eager to please as he smiled, and offered a somewhat clumsy bow, and hurried away, the horse following at ease, upon his heels.
Celeborn’s glance darted past the younger Elf’s shoulders, an unspoken question appearing on his face before his eyes focused once again upon the younger of his grandsons.
“You brought no companions?”
“I did not think it right to compel any others to accompany me across the mountain passes, grandfather.” As Celeborn shook his head, an expression of mild disapproval on his face, Elrohir swiftly added with a plaintive grin, “After all, I can take care of myself, can I not?”
Celeborn’s glance of mild rebuke changed to a warm smile, and he descended the few steps that remained between himself and his grandson, and embraced him tightly before he drew back, his eyes bright with welcome.
“You were always the daring one.” He smiled, before his faced sobered, and his brows twitched. “Elladan remained then, with Arwen?”
Elrohir’s own playful smile faded, and he bobbed his head as the Lord of Lórien turned away, following a meandering path, and his grandson followed him at his shoulder. “She is growing weaker.”
“Her fate is now tied to the Ring.” Celeborn sighed somberly, shaking his head slightly, his jaw set, much as Elrond’s had been. “When it is gone into the fire, she will recover.”
Elrohir drew in a low sigh at his grandfather’s words as the two Elves passed beneath the silver lights of the houses perched above them. When, Celeborn had said, not if.
“Our young guest, for whom you have come, is a fair, golden haired maiden, near Lalaith’s age, we guess, though perhaps some few centuries younger.” Celeborn explained as the pair reached a row of silver steps that curved up the ledge of a low hill, twined about by the arching roots of Mallyrn. “None know who she is, nor who her kin may be.”
“Yes,” Elrohir nodded. “So Haldir’s brother Rumil said, when I met him and the guards upon the forest eaves.”
Celeborn paused a moment, a step ahead of Elrohir, and glanced back at him, a humored light dancing in his eyes before he asked, “The warriors from Imladris said nothing to you of Haldir, when they returned, did they?”
“I had no chance to speak with any of them.” Elrohir returned with a shake of his head. “I remained near Arwen the whole of my time home. I have heard nothing of Haldir, good or ill.” His eyes grew worried. “Was he injured?”
Celeborn sighed thoughtfully at the question. “Aye, he-, was. But he has since-, recovered.”
“That is good to know.” Elrohir nodded, a breath of relief escaping his lips. “It must have been a great relief to his lady.”
“None can imagine.” Celeborn dropped his eyes, his lips drawing up in a thoughtful smile before he glanced once again at his grandson a step beneath him.
“Come.” He murmured warmly, resting a hand on the younger Elf’s shoulder, and drawing him up beside him as they continued to mount the steps. “It is time for you to meet our little Nimrodel.”
“Is that her name?” Elrohir asked. “Then she has remembered who she is?”
“No, not as yet,” Celeborn answered with a small chuckle. “But it seemed a proper name for her, for she was found near the stream that bears her name, and she is bright and lithe of foot as the maiden Nimrodel once was-,” Celeborn’s voice faded off into distant, somber thoughts of his own, before he rallied quickly and smiled once again at his grandson. “And the maid could hardly go about, nameless.” He finished, his voice brightening, to which Elrohir smiled.
At this, he drew to a stop, and glanced forward, Elrohir following his gaze as they looked over a flower strewn glen, where spears of warm morning sunlight streamed down through the plaited branches above their heads and danced across the glade where a soft breeze fanned the high grasses as a group of sprightly young Elflings danced hither and thither through the flowers, singing or laughing as they played at their childish games, or chased the fleeting spears of dancing light across the grass as their mothers watched after them from the edge of the glade with smiling eyes. At the far edge of the bright clearing, where a soft shadow swathed the grass, sat a young woman Elrohir did not recognize. She cradled a small Elfling of no greater than five years upon her lap, his downy drowsing head resting upon her slim shoulder. How fair she seemed, Elrohir could not help but note, her eyes soft and curious like a child’s, her face delicate and slender, with a soft, smiling mouth full and warm beneath a pert little nose. Her form was slender and maidenly, graceful like a willow where she sat, her skirts billowed about her like a white shimmering cloud, with the infant against her shoulder.
Her lord was a fortunate man, Elrohir found himself thinking, the father of the young Elfling upon her lap, for she was fairer than any other woman he had ever known. And Elrohir sighed, and glanced away.
Aside from himself and Celeborn, the Marchwarden Haldir was the only male Elf present, seated not far from the crest of the steps upon an arched root. His wife, Lothriel, sat beside him, her head resting against his shoulder, her eyes gazing dreamily over the cantering Elflings as her lord’s arm circled about her, his hand resting in a protective gesture upon her stomach. There was something different about him, something grand and ethereal, which Elrohir could not place. But then-, Elrohir recalled the news that had come to Imladris before their departure for the havens; Haldir and Lothriel were newly married. At this, Elrohir smirked to himself, and dismissed the thought.
Not far away from the newly wedded couple sat Elrohir’s own grandmother. Galadriel was seated delicately upon a silver root as fair and as light as a bird, her eyes sparking with amusement as she watched the antics of the Elflings before her. Just now, a small Elf lad was hurrying near, half hopping in his haste as he offered her an amusing attempt at a bow, and lay a small bouquet of flowers upon her knees.
She smiled and thanked him, accepting his gift, and the boy blushed, scampering away to his smiling mother to hide his reddened face in her skirts.
Galadriel glanced up then, and at Elrohir’s appearance, her gaze alighted with joyful welcome.
“Ah, Elrohir.” Galadriel breathed warmly, rising gracefully from her seat, to come forward and embrace him, her fair head tucking against his shoulder for a moment before she drew back, and smiled up at him. “I am glad to see you safe.”
“My lord, Elrohir.” Haldir called out, finally noticing the two Elf lords standing near, and he rose, his hand gently drawing up his lady beside him as well. Lothriel smiled in welcome as she stood, and Elrohir did not miss the subtle brush of her hand across her yet narrow stomach. Haldir eyed the younger Elf a moment before his mouth lightly smirked, and he asked, “Your journey was uneventful, I trust?”
“I fear my journey was rather uneventful, my lord, Haldir. Dreadfully tedious.” Elrohir muttered straight faced. “I did meet a host of orcs. But of course, I slew them all with great ease, which of course, should be no surprise to you. It was all I could do, to keep myself from falling asleep in the saddle.”
There was silence between the small group for a moment, before a muffled laugh broke past Elrohir’s lips. At this, Celeborn bowed his head, shaking it as he fought back a subdued chuckle. The ladies glanced at one another and smirked, and Haldir grinned before he came forward to clasped Elrohir’s arm companionably, and nodded toward the center of the glade.
“Here is the maiden, Nimrodel.” Haldir said, his voice growing somewhat sad at Elrohir’s shoulder. “Or so we will call her until her memory returns.”
Elrohir followed his gaze across the glade, his brow furrowing in wonder as his eyes lighted upon the same young woman he had noticed earlier. Then she was not the little Elfling’s own mother?
“She loves the company of the small ones, especially the infants,” Lothriel murmured as an explanation, seeing the question upon Elrohir’s face. “With them, she seems the most at ease. Though she never speaks, even to them. Except to repeat the name of Lord Glorfindel. His name is all she ever says.”
“And you have seen nothing as to who she can be, or who her kin are?” Elrohir asked his grandmother, to which Galadriel sadly shook her head.
“That is lost to my sight.” She sighed, her soft frown fading to a smile as she clutched Elrohir’s hand, and pulled him forward. “But come. Your face I did see, and though what it may portend, I cannot yet know, I sense, somehow, that you are the one to draw her memories out.”
“I know only a portion of the healing arts that my father knows-,” Elrohir muttered softly, running his palms, which were suddenly damp, against the hem of his tunic.
“But this maiden somehow needs you.” Galadriel assured him, smiling a gentle, secretive smile before she turned and called gently, “Nimrodel?”
The maiden lifted her head, and glanced in their direction as Galadriel’s silver voice echoed across the glade. And his heart stopped upon a beat within his chest as her gaze found Elrohir’s for the first time. Her own eyes shot open in a gesture of sudden surprise, and remained upon him as the sleeping infant’s mother came forward to claim her baby, whom the maiden carefully handed over as she rose to her feet, her eyes ever unmoving from Elrohir’s. She came forward at a slow pace brushing lightly through the grass, past the frolicking Elflings, her eyes fixed unblinking upon no other but Elrohir, as if she were entranced.
“Here is a new friend, dear Nimrodel,” Lothriel cooed softly, drawing near her as the maiden came near, and Lothriel took the girl’s hand within her own, as if she were an Elfling. “He is here to help you.”
The girl gulped hard, trading a swift, pleading glance with Lothriel before her eyes turned again upon Elrohir. Her free hand lay heavily against the skirt of the white dress she wore, a borrowed one, Elrohir realized now, for it was loose upon her slender, young body.
“It is a great pleasure to meet you, lady Nimrodel.” Elrohir murmured. He offered her a small bow, and stepped softly toward her, smiling into her wide eyes that watched him, unwavering, unblinking.
The girl sighed at this, drew her hand from Lothriel’s, came a step closer to him, and breathed in a light, airy voice, “Eärendil?”