In spite of his weariness, Elrohir smiled as he made his way beneath the silver lighted trees of Caras Galadhon away from the music and the merry making that faded behind him through the trees as he followed the path his grandmother had directed him upon. Though the threat had not faded, there was much to be joyful for, now that the men had returned, all of them unscathed, having driven the dark forces of Dol Guldur back across the river, but his thoughts were not turned upon the feasting behind him, for the face he had carried ever before his eyes during the battle, he had not seen among the faces of the women who had come to greet the returning warriors.
Turning briefly at a soft sound to his left, he saw through the trees, two shadowed figures, a man and a woman, Haldir and his lady Lothriel, he noted as they drew nearer, who had taken themselves away from the lights and noise of the clearing behind them, for a brief moment together. A look of infinite tenderness had claimed the Marchwarden’s usually haughty features as he brushed tears of worry from his lady’s fair cheeks, and gently kissed her as their arms went about one another, their embrace swiftly growing tight and insistent. Elrohir could only smile and glanced discretely away as he hurried on down the path, his heart aching all the more for she whom he sought.
All he could hear above the reverent silence about him, was the echoing hush of flowing water that grew as he drew closer. The spot of color through the trees gleamed like a shaft of shimmering azure before he caught sight of Calassë’s gown, and Elrohir felt a surge of warmth in his heart as he picked up his feet more swiftly, hurrying forward until he came around the edge of the last trees, and saw her, seated upon a flat rock, some distance downstream that arched slightly out over the water that flowed beneath it.
The flat stone she sat upon, lay beneath a warm beam of moonlight that pierced the canopy overhead, and rested upon her unbound hair in a silver glow where she sat beside the stream, gazing down into the water, a pensive, almost sad expression upon the fair features of her face as a hand reached out, trailing lightly over the trickling surface of the water. Her slender young body was concealed beneath a shimmering silken gown of dusty azure that flowed over the curves of her fair form in a way that caused his heart to catch strangely in his throat.
She had not noticed him as yet, and Elrohir paused where he had stopped, drinking in the sight of her, her legs curled beneath her, so frail and small-, So like a bird she seemed, one of the bright white birds that flitted through the trees of Lórien, adding their cheerful songs to the music of the forest. All that was in him, wished to go to her, to take her into his arms, and never let her go.
“Calassë,” he called at last, his voice hushed and still in the quiet, and her eyes darted upward, her blindingly blue gaze traveling over his form, clad in his battle clothing, his breeches and loose tunic open at the throat, frayed and blood stained.
A decidedly warm flush darkened her face, which only served to add to her beauty, and Elrohir smiled as he strode forward, and lowered himself to the stone beside her, reaching out and catching her hand in his own.
“My lord,” she breathed, glancing down at the hand she held. She turned toward him, the fingers of her free hand touching lightly upon a black smatter of orc blood that had dried upon his sleeve. Her eyes remained fixed upon the black crusted blood as if entranced, her voice soft and hollow as she hissed, “I am glad to see you returned, well and whole. I have worried-,”
“I am here, now, Lady Calassë. Where I wish to be,” he returned before he leaned near her shoulder and, though his heart pounded wildly within him, added in a softer voice, “For I would choose to be with no other but you whom I could not cease to think of, as we drove the forces of Dol Guldur back. Your fair and gentle face never left my thoughts, and I could think of nothing but returning to you.”
Once again, her eyes lifted to his, and Elrohir started at the shimmering pain he saw within them.
She drew her hand back, and glanced away as she rose, taking several steps away from him, her body stiffened, her shoulders taut, an attitude of troubled pain resting upon her.
“Calassë?” he queried as he hopped up swiftly, wondering at her sudden pain. Had he troubled her or pained her, somehow? That was not his intent!
“Calassë?” he breathed, drawing himself up behind her, and putting his hands upon her shoulders-, so small and frail. Warmth trembled through him as he felt the heat of her soft flesh through the cloth of her gown, and he shuddered slightly at the power it brought him. He would move the world for this maiden, if it were in his power. “Something troubles you. Will you not tell me what it is?”
Elrohir turned back to see her eyes, drenched in sorrow and confusion, studying him before they fell downward.
“I would do anything for you, my Calassë,” he breathed softly, slowly reaching outward toward her, and softly catching her hands, wishing to comfort her. “I would die for you, were I called upon to do so. Let me comfort you. Let me take away your pain. For I-,”
Calassë tore suddenly away from him, startling Elrohir into silence, a look of pleading mingled with fear coming upon her face as she stumbled back, away from him.
“Calassë?” he queried softly. “What is it?”
“I have remembered-,” she choked in a voice that was hardly her own as her gaze once again lifted to meet his, though he hardly recognized her for the wretched expression of agony and shame that had claimed her countenance. “I remember-,”
All color was gone from her face, and she had grown as pale as the moon as she lifted tortured eyes to his, and her hand fell to her stomach as if a sudden pain had seized her.
“Oh, dear Valar, I did not think it would be so difficult as this-,” she moaned raggedly.
“Calassë-,” he murmured, drawing a step nearer to her, his hands outstretched for her. “What do you remember?”
So often before, she had found comfort in the shelter of his arms, but now, she fell back a step from him, as if retreating from something she feared. “No!” she hissed. “Please, don’t. You cannot touch me, my dearest-, I-, I am-,”
A sob wrenched from her lungs before she turned away from him, her face in her hands, and fled away into the silver washed mist of the forest, following no path as she swiftly disappeared from his view into the thick night shadows beneath the trees.
“Calassë!” he cried, breaking into a run after her, following the bright shimmer of her gown flitting between the trees as she fled from him. He could hear her sobs following behind her as she ran.
“Calassë!” he cried, ducking tree limbs and leaping large stones drawing steadily nearer to her until at last they broke through the trees into a narrow, star washed clearing.
She turned upon him, terror in her eyes, backing, like a cornered animal into the trunk of a tree, her young breasts rising and falling swiftly from her swift flight as Elrohir drew near to her, and placed his hands on both sides of her, determined not to let her flee from him again.
“Calassë-,” he gulped, his breath heaving from his hard run through the trees as he leaned near to her. “What happened? Speak to me, please! I beg you! It is torture to see you in such pain, and myself unable to help!”
But Calassë spoke not at all as she pushed helplessly at his arms pressed against the tree on both sides of her, holding her captive. But she could not break free. And with a look of heartbreaking despair, she ducked her head, pressed her face into her hands, and began to sob.
“Calassë, why?” Elrohir queried helplessly, his frustration fading at her tears. “Why did you run from me? Have I frightened you?”
He drew his arms back from the tree, releasing his unwilling prisoner, though she did not flee as he stepped back, a sobering thought entering his mind. “There is another,” he muttered, his heart wrenching within him. “You are remembering your lover, one you loved and lost long ago, and have only now remembered.”
“Would it were that!” She shook her head, stilling her tears, and looking away, refusing to lift her eyes to his. “For then, you would not despise me.”
“Calassë, I could never despise you.” Elrohir breathed softly, moving to draw her close, but she would not come, and instead pulled away from him. “You are the most beautiful, the most pure hearted maiden I have ever known-,”
“Stop!” She cried in a ragged, tortured voice. “Every word you speak is like a dagger in my heart!”
Elrohir tightened his jaw. “I do not wish for it to be!” he cried. “Tell me what I must do, to stop your pain Calassë! I would do all in my power to do so, for you are dearer to me than all-,”
“No! Do not speak thusly!” she cried, and jerked away, backing slowly away from him, though her weeping eyes pled with him as she moved away.
“Why?” he demanded. “Do I not deserve to know why? I beg you, Calassë! To see your pain is torture to me, as well. I beg you, have mercy upon me!”
At his pleading words, Calassë stopped, shuddering as she did, and dropped her head, weary and defeated.
A nightingale somewhere off in the forest began a somber song of twilight, and the wind about them rustled the leaves within the branches over their heads.
Silence reigned a long moment before Calassë once again opened her mouth and spoke, her voice timid and small in the strained quiet.
“I am not who you think I am, Eärendil.” She muttered. The words, spoken by her, addressing him as his grandfather, seemed a strange thing. And the jarring reminder that she thought him to be another, returned again to him. “I do not deserve to be here, in these fair, unblemished woods, fostered by these beautiful, faultless people! I am unworthy to be adored so, by you! I am-, I am-,” she finished in a choking whisper, “I am unclean.”
A hard lump formed within Elrohir’s gut as she spoke. And the knowledge of what she spoke of, made him want to take her in his arms, and weep with her, forever. He had been certain that such a thing had happened, but to feel her pain and her shame afresh, tore fresh wounds open upon his heart.
“The orcs that took me-,” she gulped hard as he trembling, listening, his heart tearing within him to see her pain. “I do not remember it all. It is like a faded nightmare. But I remember enough to know that-,” she gulped hard once more. “They did not leave me untouched. I am not the fair virtuous maiden you think I am.” The despairing look in her eyes, and the pain within the words she spoke, smote his heart. Her voice rose now, bitter and despairing. “They ruined me.”
Her eyes dropped to the ground at her feet as she turned away from him, burying her face in her hands. She was weeping silently now, this painful confession having drained her completely.
“Calassë-,” Elrohir breathed. And in one fluid movement, he crossed the space between them, and caught her soft shoulders in his hands, drawing her closer against him, from behind. “Do not weep such bitter tears. For now together, we can go on, away from the torment of the past.”
“How can we?” she whispered sadly, shivering slightly, her slender back warm against his chest. “I am unworthy to be here in this fair place untouched by the stain of evil! I am-,” Choking upon a sob, she cried, “I am unworthy of you, my dear one!”
“No!” Elrohir seethed, his jaw tightening as he turned her toward him, and Calassë did not resist, glancing up, her eyes shimmering with sorrowful tears.
“You were not willing! Their evil is not your own.” he declared vehemently, remembering the wretched pain his mother had endured, the same harrowing guilt that wracked Calassë’s soul, now. How wretchedly helpless he felt!
“But I am no longer the innocent maiden of Gondolin I once was-,”
“Calassë,” he choked his hands upon her shoulders tightening, and his eyes bore deeply into her own. “Answer me truly! Have you ever given yourself to any man, of any race, good or fell, of your own choice?”
Softly she swallowed, her head half bowed, and murmured, “No-,”
“Then you are a maiden!” he breathed, his voice grown suddenly tender as he took Calassë’s face between his hands, his thumbs tenderly brushing away the shining silver tears that trailed down her fair cheeks.
A soft broken breath found its way out of her lips at these words. And as her eyes misted with silent, silver tears, a great tenderness welled within Elrohir. An innocent, ethereal tenderness that rose above his admiration of her outward beauty.
“Oh, my dear one!” she cried. And she was in his arms, her slender form sheltered in the strength of his arms, her head tucked beneath his chin as she clutched him tightly in return.
Elrohir tucked his head over her own, trembling slightly from the warmth that shivered through him. Never had he seen the Blessed Realm, or walked upon the gold dusted streets of Tirion. But surely, the joy he would feel were he ever to come to those hallowed shores could not be greater than what he felt here, with Calassë sheltered in his arms. Softly, he bent his head, pressing a soft kiss to her smooth, ivory brow.
“The Valar bless you, Eärendil,” she murmured lifting her head, her eyes soft in spite of the wetness that yet lingered there, and Elrohir sighed at the name she spoke, a troubled sadness washing over his heart.
But for her sake he merely smiled and rested his cheek against her hair as she tucked her head against his shoulder and sighed, her breath broken, yet content.