Lalaith stood glancing about herself upon the wide field of the dead, her hand sheltered within Legolas’ gentle grip as the two Elves stood a short distance behind Gimli, watching the misty host of the Dead sweeping near toward Aragorn, the air about them thick with a hushed quiet.
The small voice, weary but pleased, seemed loud in the quiet air.
She and Legolas both turned at Pippin’s dear voice to see him, with Gandalf before him, drawing near.
Pippin’s eyes were bright with relief as Gandalf offered his own quiet smile toward the maiden as the king of the Dead wafted forward, and stood before Aragorn.
“Release us,” he hissed in a hissing whisper, as a voice spoken from the depths of a memory.
“Bad idea,” Gimli grumbled from behind Aragorn. “Very handy in a tight spot these lads, despite the fact they’re dead.”
Beside her, Legolas smirked slightly at these words, and his hand tightened gently about her own as he glanced at her, a humored look in his eyes. Lalaith returned his brief smirk.
“You gave us your word!” the ghostly man seethed.
“I hold your oath fulfilled,” he returned, his voice firm though mild, and bearing within it, a nobility that Lalaith’s heart grew warm to hear.
“Go,” he continued as an expression of grateful relief drew across the faint, transparent features of the ghostly king, and his followers. “Be at peace.”
And to this, the king of the Dead smiled wearily, and withdrew a pace as the lines of his men wavered and as upon a sudden breeze, their forms faded, and flitted away, like strains of dust into the sky.
Aragorn turned at this, and acknowledged Gandalf’s short bow with a nod of his head.
Lalaith smiled, sensing the weight of importance at what had happened. For none but the king of Gondor, could have freed them at last, the Oathbreakers, their oath at last fulfilled.
Not many paces away, a sound of soft sobbing entered Lalaith’s ears, and she turned, to study the young man of Rohan, his armor dusty and slashed with black blood as he knelt at the side of a man of older years, his father, most likely, for their features were similar. The man’s eyes were closed, no movement lifted his chest.
The younger man’s chin bore a soft brush of scruff, the first beginnings of a beard. His eyes were red from crying as he bent over the dead man. “Papa, papa,” he wept softly.
Beyond the young man, she could see Éomer, the nephew of Théoden the king of Rohan, striding about among his men, their faces grim, written with grief. Every now and again, a man would drop to his knees beside a body he recognized, weeping quietly as the young man did, near her.
“So many noble Men, Legolas,” she sighed, and his hand silently tightened about her own as she gazed about the battlefield. “The fathers, and brothers and lovers of the maidens I befriended in Rohan.” She shuddered. “So many of them-,”
“Lalaith!” Pippin’s voice called, and she glanced toward the sound, fear rising in her heart at the urgency in the Hobbit’s tone.
With Legolas at her side, she hurried across the corpse strewn field to where Pippin stood, bending over a small crumpled cloak. Behind her, Legolas’ hands cupped her shoulders and tightened. Pippin lifted the small cloak, the leaf shaped brooch still pinned to the cloth.
“Merry!” she gasped softly.
“We will search him out,” Legolas said, his voice a low breath, though filled with feeling. “We will find him together, Pippin. Have no fear.”
At this, a small smile began tentatively to smooth the worried lines from his mouth until a wretched scream of wild misery rent the heavy silence that lingered over the battle field, shredding the air about them with its wild despair.
And all their eyes shot across the field to see Éomer drop his sword and helmet, lunging and leaping over fallen bodies toward the grass, near the crumpled reeking mound that was the Witch King’s slain mount. Éomer’s face was filled with a wild, raging grief as he ran, like a wild mindless thing toward the fallen warrior he knew.
Lalaith caught a flash of a white horse’s coat. Snowmane, the king’s horse, lay dead upon the grass near the putrid corpse of the Witch King’s mount as warriors heaved his body off his fallen rider and drew Théoden’s silent form from beneath the horse’s body.
Lalaith’s hand flew to her mouth. Tears pricked her eyes as she recalled the king’s gentle ways, and his fatherly kindness. But his uncle’s body was not where Éomer fell to his knees. But rather, beside the form of a warrior small and slender, whom Lalaith recognized suddenly, the fair face, the golden hair. Éowyn! Not the fair, fearless maiden of Rohan! Lalaith’s heart dropped into a void of pain, recalling the maiden’s gentle, yet proud ways, the nobility and kindness in her eyes-,
“Ai, Elbereth!” she cried as she started tentatively forward. “My Lord, Éomer?”
“No!” Éomer wept wildly, his wild unseeing glance, and his ragged words pushing Lalaith back as he clutched his sister’s motionless form against him as if he thought Lalaith might try to harm Éowyn as he rocked pathetically back and forth with her upon the grass. “Éowyn!” he sobbed fiercely, turning his face down toward his sisters. “How came you to be here? What madness or devilry is this? Death take us all!”
Lalaith turned her eyes sadly from Éomer’s wild weeping, seeing through her own tears the eyes of Aragorn, across the space and Gandalf as well, their eyes deep with grief before the thump of horses’ hooves and the clatter of men’s armor as several came running near drew her gaze toward the open city gate.
A man, fair haired and beardless with a cloak of deep blue about his shoulders drew near at the head of a column of Men of Minas Tirith, some mounted, some upon foot, carrying empty stretchers, sheets of leather bound between wooden braces, to bear back the wounded of the Rohirrim. Lalaith recognized Imrahil, the prince of Dol Amroth. The Man beside whom she had stood upon the wall when Faramir had ridden off on the disastrous mission toward Osgiliath. He had told her of his daughter, Lothiriel, the maid who loved horses.
Imrahil, seeing Éomer’s fearsome grief, leapt to the ground, drawing nearer than Éomer had allowed Lalaith, a look of concern upon his youthful features.
“A woman-,” the man muttered, his eyes perplexed as he drew tentatively to the grieving man where Éomer knelt, and dropped to one knee in humble reverence. “Have even the women of the Rohirrim come to war at our need?”
“Nay,” Éomer returned, looking upon the man with wild pleading upon his face. Éomer’s voice was ragged and broken. “Only one. This is the Lady Éowyn, my sister. We knew naught of her riding until this moment!”
The man’s brow furrowed as he looked upon the maiden, and leaned near, touching her hand. “So would my daughter Lothiriel have come, had I allowed her, beautiful as your brave sister, and as fearless-,”
Éomer shuddered, shaking his head. “If your daughter is fair as her name, I would stand before all the host of Mordor, to keep them from her, my lord. Brave though she might be, she would have no need to fight them, while I lived.”
“Lord of Rohan!” Imrahil breathed, starting back as he drew his hand back from Éowyn’s. “Your sister is not dead! Hurt to the death, maybe, but I deem that she yet lives.”
Lalaith’s heart leapt into her throat at this, as Imrahil bent nearer, putting two fingers to the maiden’s throat, catching a swift breath as he did.
“Indeed!” he cried. “See, my young Lord!” At this, Imrahil held the bright burnished vambrace upon his arm near to Éowyn’s lips, and a little mist brushed across it.
Éomer gasped sharply at this. “Éowyn!” he choked.
“Haste now is needed!” Imrahil insisted. “She must be taken swiftly to the healers in the city!”
And at this, Éomer fairly exploded to his feet, bearing his sister up with him.
“Take my horse, my young Lord,” Imrahil ordered. “And take care of her left arm, it is broken, it seems. Go!”
“A blessing upon you, my friend. Upon your daughter, and all your kin. Stranger before today, though well met in this hour!” Éomer returned, tears of gratitude shining in his eyes as he swung, with Éowyn in his arms like a child, upon onto Imrahil’s mount, and wheeled its head about, bringing it to a swift gallop, back toward the city.
“Come men,” Imrahil muttered, his voice shaking. “Let us help them gather their wounded, and bring them back into the city.”
Lalaith’s heart ached to race after Éomer, and ensure herself that Éowyn would be safe. But she knew she must stay, and help Pippin find Merry.
“Aragorn,” she hissed swiftly, turning toward the ranger who had drawn near her, his face was filled with a sweet, mournful hope as he watched Éomer upon the prince’s horse, fading before a cloud of heavy dust. She turned toward her friend and her fingers, trembling, found Aragorn’s arm. “You have the gift of healing, go to the Houses of Healing, and care for Éowyn. The power is in you to bring her out of the shadows.”
“Yes,” he murmured, his hand finding hers as he gently squeezed. “I will go.”
And with that, he turned away, and broke into a swift trot, toward the city gates.
“Lalaith!” Legolas’ voice caused her head to spin swiftly, and she trotted toward her beloved where he and Pippin stood, perplexed, over a mound of cloth and metal upon the ground near to the great mound of the beheaded beast.
“What do you think of this?” Pippin asked softly, nudging the crumpled metal and cloth with his toe, seeming to have once been clad about a form, though now it lay empty upon the grass, the iron wrought helm of the Witch King lying nearby. Though Lalaith’s eyes were drawn, rather, to her knife, seared and discolored upon the blade as if it had been exposed to blistering heat, lying nearby.
Bending down, and drawing up its familiar weight into her fist, Lalaith murmured softly, as the unmistakable impression entered her thoughts, “Merry held this, not long ago.”
“Then he’s nearby!” Pippin whispered hopefully as Lalaith glanced from him, to Legolas’ eyes as her beloved smiled gently on her.
“Then let us find him,” Legolas murmured softly.
Galadriel drew in a low sigh as she paused in the arching doorway of her talan, studying the maiden who sat upon a low stone seat beside the railing, her arms resting upon the silver fluted balustrade, while her chin rested upon her interlaced fingers.
“Calassë,” she called gently, and the maiden turned her head, smiling briefly in greeting.
“Good evening, Nana,” she returned softly.
A wave of relief washed over Galadriel’s heart. So the child was not indignant at all, now that she had learned the truth, and Galadriel sighed at this comfort, gliding to where Calassë sat, before she too, seated herself lightly beside the maiden.
“Lady Lothriel told me that she found a book open, upon a stone beneath her talan,” Galadriel began softly.
Calassë’s eyes filled with repentant consternation at this. “She is unhappy that I forgot to return it?”
“No, child, no,” Galadriel assured her, reaching out and catching Calassë’s hand consolingly. “She was merely concerned at what you had read within its pages.” Galadriel squeezed the maiden’s hand gently and softly added, “As am I. You have been seated here, since your return this morning, taking neither rest nor repast. I would speak to you of what those pages revealed to you.”
Calassë sighed low, and the sound was sweet and light, with no trace of bitterness in it, and Galadriel marveled quietly that it would be as Calassë returned the gentle squeeze of her hand.
“If I could choose, I would wait, to speak with-, him.” And at the soft breathlessness in the maiden’s voice, Galadriel knew she spoke of Elrohir.
“It will be then, as you wish,” Galadriel murmured. Then leaning near, she placed a soft kiss to the maiden’s cheek, and giving a last squeeze of her hand, rose to go.
“Ai, Nana, wait-,” Calasse’s voice suddenly fraught, called her back, and the Lady turned, to meet the girl’s fair, bright eyes. “There is one thing I would wish to know from you.”
Calassë’s hand reached up, seeking for Galadriel’s in much the same way Celebrian often sought for her hand as a child, when she wished for comfort or reassurance. Galadriel felt a tightness in her throat at this, and willingly took the proffered hand, drawing herself once more down upon the bench beside the maiden.
“I would know-, where I am and-,” Calassë sighed. “These woods are not Doriath as I first supposed, for the sons of that,” a brief flare of anger flashed across the maiden’s face, “that vile wretch destroyed them. And so much more time has passed than I once thought-, I-,”
“You are in the woods of Lothlórien, so these woods are called,” Galadriel breathed obligingly. “Fostered by the Galadhrim. And the year is 3018 of the Third Age. You lived in thralldom to Morgoth’s host since before the beginning of the Second Age.”
Calassë’s eyes crushed closed at these words, a soft sigh breaking from her lips.
“For so long I was in the darkness,” Calassë murmured. “I fear what I will remember, Nana. I would that he were here, with me. For I am not so afraid, when he is with me.”
“Oh, my dear one,” Galadriel murmured, leaning near, and drawing the maiden into an embrace to which Calassë willingly came, tucking herself beneath Galadriel’s chin, as Celebrian had so often done. “Pain will indeed come,” Galadriel agreed with a low sigh. “But I would have you remember, my dearest Calassë, when it does, that though you were in the darkness, it was never truly part of you. For you drew yourself out of it, and there is no darkness in you. Remember that, my daughter.”
Calassë’s brow furrowed at this, and she sighed, a brief heaviness in the sound. “I wish I could be with him, now.” Calassë’s hand tightened upon Galadriel’s as upon a lifeline. “With all my heart, I long to be with him, to see his face, and speak to him of-, everything. I am not afraid when he is near. I wish I could feel his arms about me, again.”
Galadriel’s heart quavered for a moment upon these words, and a brief flash of foresight came to her mind. And troubling though it was, it brought also, a sense of comfort to her heart.
“You will, my dearest,” Galadriel returned, studying the upturned pleading expression in Calassë’s eyes as it changed to a look of hopeful gratitude even as the maiden’s cheeks darkened with a warm flush. “It will indeed be only a little more time, before you will be once more in the arms of he who loves you above all others. And you will never lose him, again.”
Calassë smiled softly, shyly at these words.
“I am grateful for you, Nana,” Calassë murmured, snuggling closer into Galadriel’s shoulder. “For all that you have done for me.”
Calassë sighed, the sound so like Celebrian’s voice, that a tear touched Galadriel’s eye, and slipped down her cheek.
“And I am grateful for you, my daughter,” Galadriel breathed. “More than words can express.”
Long the Lady sat upon the bench by the balustrade, the maiden curled near like a child as the lights of Caras Galadhon below them faded to the silvery sheen of night.
Elrohir stood upon the edge of the talan perched high in the branches of one of the Mallyrn that stood high and proud on a rill that overlooked the shining ribbon of the Anduin that shone and sparkled beneath the moonlight, seeking for movement within the shadows across the river. A number of other Elven men of the Galadhrim Haldir among them, clad in shining armor, and gilded helmets, stood about the talan, or sat pensively, while off through the trees upon other aerial perches, other Elven warriors waited, watching for movement across the river.
Elrohir could feel a drop of sweat easing down the side of his face beneath his helmet, and he swiped it away as it trickled onto his jaw before he glanced at his bow, thoughtfully running his hand over the haft of it.
Celeborn stood a short space away from him, tall and proud upon the edge of the talan, silver armor girded about his broad chest, his golden hair uncovered catching in the sun, and the wind that blew from over the river as he studied the shadows there with a keen eye. A true lord he was among the Galadhrim, like a lion, the great cats of Harad Elrohir had read of, fierce and fearless in defense of his people.
At Elrohir’s slight movement, his grandfather glanced over at him. The fire in Celeborn’s gaze eased slightly as his eyes met those of his grandson, and a narrow smile touched his lips.
“Your vigilance is to be commended, Elrohir,” he muttered softly. “One would think you guarded a Silmaril, from the fire in your eyes when you were in battle with our foe.”
“Indeed,” Elrohir muttered, his eyes falling slightly as his lips twitched with a thoughtful smirk. “I do guard a treasure. But Calassë is of value infinitely greater than a Silmaril, Grandfather. And she-,” he could feel heat rising to his face as he spoke, but he did not care. “She is far more beautiful,” he finished quietly.
Celeborn nodded silently at this, his gaze thoughtful for a long moment before he murmured softly, “Neither can she hide her caring for you, Elrohir. Her eyes betray her feelings, whether of friendship or more than that, it is early to tell, though of a certain, she adores you.”
“No,” Elrohir cut in quickly, shaking his head, his words fighting past the tight knot within his throat. “She adores Eärendil. It is not me she cares for.”
Celeborn drew in a breath that swelled his chest as Elrohir’s words, his blue eyes growing deep with thought.
“Nay, you are mistaken, my grandson!” he returned in a low voice that was at once both firm and gentle.
Elrohir drew in a shuddering sigh at these firm yet warmly spoken words, and dropped his eyes. A hand, firm as it clapped upon the stiff armor at his shoulder brought his head up, and he met Celeborn’s warm eyes.
“For though she calls you Eärendil, the name of your father’s father, it is you to whom she has given her trust, you to whom she turns for comfort.”
Celeborn added with firmness his eyes gentle, “It matters not by what name she calls you.”
“Yet I would have her know my true name,” Elrohir breathed with sudden strength. “When next I see her, I will tell her the truth.”
Celeborn said nothing to this as his eyes grew dark and shaded. “She trusts you above all others, and looks to you for strength,” he breathed at last. “Be wise with your words.”
“I will be,” Elrohir vowed. “But Calassë has grown strong. Stronger than she was before. As much as I have cherished her dependence on me, she does not need me for strength as she once did. And that is as it should be.”
A worried smile played across his lips at these words. “Though-, if she would permit me, I would care for her, forever.” He glanced toward Celeborn who studied his grandson’s gaze with a gentle look. “Even if I could be no more than a guardian to her, Grandfather, I would be content to be near her. For I know now, that I have lost my heart to her.”
He swallowed softly, giving voice to the warm emotion that rose within him at last. “I love her,” he murmured softly.
A slow smile began across Celeborn’s features.
“This darkness will not always linger, my grandson,” he offered quietly. “Light will come again.”
With these words, Celeborn glanced away and said no more.
Elrohir turned his gaze eastward again, gazing out across the silver ribbon of the river, studying the darkness that lingered there, though within his heart, glowed a warm light.
Lalaith cast a look over her shoulder at Legolas as Pippin’s frantic voice echoed from across the field where the three had been searching for Merry all day, among the dead and wounded.
Night was a heavy still blanket across the quiet field, and though many wounded of the Rohirrim had been found and treated, and carried into the city, still Merry had not been found.
Even if he had been slain, finding his dear little body would be something of a comfort. But the aching uncertainty that they had not found even that, ate bitterly at Lalaith’s heart, and Legolas’ look of understanding at her dawning grief spoke clearly enough that he understood.
Lalaith sighed, turning back to her task and picking her way slowly over the still bodies of the fallen.
A groan nearby startled Lalaith, a grating ragged voice among a mound of dead men, and Lalaith started back. For the voice had not spoken in any language that she understood.
Lalaith drew in a deep breath as a hand lifted, and waved weakly, as if beckoning her nearer, the hand of an Easterling, laying still but moments before, an arrow buried deep in his chest. One of Legolas’ arrows, she could see from the fletchings.
He groaned again, a word coughing from his lungs weakly as he waved his hand toward the waterbag Lalaith had slung over her shoulder for the wounded men of the Rohirrim she had been finding.
“Water?” she murmured softly, studying his dark eyes that sparked softly in the darkness. “You wish for water?”
He grunted, and nodded in assent. And Lalaith sighed long. Gulping hard, she drew a step forward, over the still forms of the Men of Rohan which lay about her, before she lowered herself to her knees beside the man, and hefted the weighty skin from her hip. She unbound the small water plug, and lifted the small gourd attached to it. Tipping a small amount of water into the gourd, she reached out toward the man, her free hand gently drawing away the cloth from about his face as she lifted the gourd to his lips.
The fair shape of his face startled her briefly, the strong youthful line of his jaw, the soft curve of his mouth as he tipped his head eagerly toward the water and drank.
“Were you one of the men upon the mûmak?” she queried softly. “Would you have slain my love had his arrow not found you first?”
Having satisfied his craving for water, the young Easterling let his head fall back wearily, studying her face above his own, his expression sad and silent, having not understood the Elf maiden’s words.
Glancing away, he mumbled a few of his own, his hand lifting, and sliding up across his chest to slip his fingers beneath a portion of the cloth bound across his chest.
Lalaith started at the movement, and drew back, wondering if his fingers were grasping for a weapon. But instead, they withdrew, holding a small cord bound at both ends with string. The man held it out for her, his eyes hopeful, and obligingly, Lalaith reached out, and took it into her fingers, realizing then, that it was a strand of plaited hair. Woman’s hair, she guessed, glancing back at the man’s eyes.
“This is your love’s hair,” Lalaith guessed, and the man’s lips curled up in a weak smile as if he somehow understood her words. “She gave it to you before your departure.”
Gently, she slipped the cool plait of hair back into the man’s trembling fingers, and he brought the strand to his lips, kissing it softly, and murmuring quietly in his own tongue.
“I shall see what can be done for you, my lord,” she murmured softly as the young Easterling turned his eyes skyward, studying the pinpricks of the stars, his gaze enraptured as if he had never seen them, before.
Lalaith glanced over her shoulder, catching sight of a pair of Gondorian soldiers not a far distance away, with white satchels across their armored shoulders, medicines, and bandages, she knew, and lifted a hand.
“My lords!” she cried, and their heads lifted at her cry.
“Another wounded of the Horse Lords, my lady?” one called as they trotted near to her.
“No,” she returned as they drew nearer. “Of our enemy, an Easterling. But I would have you do what you might for him.”
“Indeed. Our duty as his foe is passed,” the second returned agreeably as the pair stopped beside her. “Do not fear, lady, we shall do all that we can for him-,”
The man’s words were stopped by his comrade however, as the first man clapped a gauntleted hand upon his arm, and nodded past Lalaith’s shoulder.
She turned, her breath catching in her throat. For the man’s eyes were already dim, his breath stilled, the strand of hair clutched in limp fingers against his lips as his sightless eyes studied the stars.
A ragged cry from Pippin, some distance away, shook her from the heaviness of the moment, and she glanced away, as did the armored soldiers, in the direction of Pippin’s voice.
“Lalaith, Legolas!” he wailed. “I found him!”
Lalaith burst to her feet, leaping with suddenly lightened steps past the young soldiers, and dashing across the field toward the shadowed bulk of a mûmak where Pippin’s voice had come from. Legolas was coming as well, drawing near from another direction, and they met as the rounded the massive mounded body of the dead beast to find Pippin huddled upon the ground near the bulk of a dead uruk, cradling Merry to him, Merry’s form covered over in the small Elvish cloak that Pippin had been carrying about, in the hopes that he might find his kinsman, Merry whose nose issued a small trail of blood, his eyes dim and unfocused, though-, Lalaith’s heart sang within her, casting off its earlier pall. For Merry was moving, sighing softly.
“Lalaith and Legolas are here, Merry,” Pippin urged softly, and the small wounded Hobbit shifted slightly, his eyes focusing upon the two Elves above his head.
“Oh,” he breathed softly. “Pippin found me, I knew he would. And-,” Merry smiled, and a tear stung the corner of Lalaith’s eye at the sight of his well loved cheer. “I knew you would not be far behind, Lalaith.”
“Come,” Legolas offered, stooping down, and scooping Merry’s small form up in his capable arms, taking care to keep the cloaked wrapped around him as Pippin willingly relinquished his friend. “Let us take you to the healers in the city.”
To this Merry said nothing, though he nodded, and wearily let his head sag against the Elf’s shoulder as Legolas started in a swift march across the field. Lalaith, and Pippin, followed beside him Pippin clinging tightly to her hand for assurance as he trotted swiftly beside her, eager to keep pace with Legolas the whole of the way.
Mists and fire swirled around him, the streets choked with ash, the bodies of the dead littering the once bright streets as Glorfindel stalked along, his sword, drenched in black blood, clenched in his fist. Where was she? Dead? Dying? Or worse?
“Calassë!” he screamed. “Calassë!!” But none answered his cry.
“My fair, beautiful one, where are you?” his voice cried wild desperation in his tone. “Do not be lost! My world will end without you!”
A gasp, pleading and frightened, shook him from his black dreams, and they wavered and were gone like wafting smoke, and he woke swiftly, finding himself upon a divan in the Hall of Fire, staring up at the high arched ceiling where the low flames of a fire cast mottled shadows. Ithilwen was sitting up beside him, her hair slightly askew, clenching his hand in hers as she studied him with wide eyes.
“Glorfindel, do not fear. I am here, I am safe.”
“Ai, Ithilwen,” he breathed, pushing himself higher, his heart heavy that she was so frightened on his account. “Forgive me. I did not mean to cause you distress. I was dreaming again of-, of Gondolin-,”
“Oh-, of-, Gondolin?” she murmured, drawing back, a look of concern furrowing the smooth ivory of her features.
Glorfindel pushed himself higher, wondering at the look of emptiness that darkened her shining eyes for the briefest moment.
“Ithilwen my beloved,” he murmured softly, lifting his fingers, and brushing them lightly against her warm cheek. “Once again, you have cast the shadows back with your light. Grateful I am, that the Valar deemed me worthy to be blessed with such love as yours.”
“It is late,” she murmured, sighing at his touch before she drew gently back, and glanced away. “Nearer to morning than from evening. I did not mean to fall into my dreams here beside you. I should go now. My kinsfolk will be concerned.” She stood, stiffness in her movements, and Glorfindel straightened, sitting up quickly.
“It is no more your fault, than mine, my love,” he returned gently, reaching for her hand before she could fully escape him.
She glanced back and down at him, her lips soft, though unsmiling as he drew her back toward him. Glorfindel studied her face, demure and soft in the dying light, recalling the previous evening when they had curled up together in the warm shadows here in this distant corner of the hall. They had both fallen into their dreams together then, Glorfindel realized with a touch of chagrin, though not without a sense of warm gladness.
Ithilwen continued to gaze on him, unsmiling, and Glorfindel drew in a low sigh, reaching for her other hand.
“Forgive me, Ithilwen,” he whispered again. “I will speak to your kinsfolk, and vouch for you honor, if you fear that they will think-,”
“They know you,” she returned softly. “They know you would not behave dishonorably.”
His brow furrowed slightly. “Then why-,”
“It is nothing,” Ithilwen said suddenly, her voice bearing a forced brightness in it. “But I must go. I will see you when the sun has claimed the sky.”
“Ithilwen-,” he called after her, but the maiden had glided swiftly away, and was gone beyond the shadows of the far doorway, lost in the corridor beyond.
Confused, he rose to follow after her, but stopped suddenly, falling back as if suddenly dizzy, onto the divan, raising a hand to his head as an image of golden trees, entered his thoughts, and a maiden appeared, her face indistinct, as if through a silver mist, though Glorfindel could sense, well enough as she gazed off and away, that her thoughts were bent upon someone. And then another image wavered, and came into his thoughts, more clear than the first, of a man’s face. Elrohir, the figure was, clad in armor, his eyes pensive, with a look that Glorfindel understood all too well, the look of fixed determination, of a warrior awaiting the coming of battle. And though it was but an intangible sensation, Glorfindel knew, with no shred of doubt, that Elrohir’s every thought was bent upon the fair maiden whose face lay hidden beyond mist, and hers upon Elrohir.
A heavy sense of helplessness gripped him at the passage of these images, and with an ache that throbbed in his heart, he wished to be where the maiden was, to help her, to guard her from evil as Elrohir was doing. But he was not there. Elrohir was. Glorfindel was here, with Ithilwen. Her own feelings, her own heart saddened by some secret ache, were his duty now. And he would see to it, that she, the one he loved, would smile again.
Quickly, he rose.
Alone in the shadows of the corridor, Ithilwen fell wearily against a pillar, and dropped her face in her hands, struggling to stifle the weeping at what she had heard him speaking in his dreams.
His words had not been clear, the garbled, half spoken speech of sleep. But she had heard enough, and had thought, at the first, that he had been speaking of her. But now, to realize that he had spoken of someone else, lost to him in Gondolin’s fall, her heart wept. Not only for herself, but for Glorfindel, and this grief that still lived within him. For surely, from the words of his tortured dreams, his grieving half spoken words had hinted at a lost lover, a beautiful maiden dear to him, slain, or taken, in the Fall of Gondolin.
Why had he never spoken to her of this lost love, before? Was the pain too great? And if he had once loved another, what was Ithilwen to him? But Glorfindel, Ithilwen quickly reminded herself, repenting of her brief uncertainty, was no charlatan. If he said he loved her, then truly, he did.
“Finwë loved two women,” she murmured softly to herself, her eyes crushing shut against the tears that squeezed forth. “And honored and adored each in her turn. Better, I suppose, to have half his heart, than none at all. She is not here to fill his life, and bring him happiness. And so, I will.” She drew in a shuddering sigh. “And it is enough.”
“Ithilwen? Ithilwen!” Glorfindel’s warm, glowing shadow appeared before her from the dying light of the hall, his strong hands finding her slender arms where she huddled in the dark against the pillar. “Here you are!” He smiled in the dark as Ithilwen swiftly wiped tears away. “What need have you to hide in the shadows, my love?”
“None,” she breathed softly, coming quickly into his arms, her heart quickening its pace as she felt him against her, her softness crushed against the firm strength of his chest as she clutched him close to herself, and buried her face against his shoulder. “None. I needed but a moment to-, to myself.”
“Ithilwen,” he murmured tenderly, pushing her back, but only slightly as he bent his head, and brushed his lips over the lines of wetness upon her cheeks.
“You have been weeping,” he whispered against her face. “Why?”
“It matters not,” she insisted. “I am not weeping now.”
Glorfindel studied her gaze with sad boyish eyes. He clearly wished for her to speak the truth, but somehow understood that she could not. “When the darkness is past, we will be wed. And I will be yours, forever, even beyond the ending of Arda, Ithilwen. I love you.”
“I know,” she returned quietly. And rising on her toes, she pressed her lips softly against his. Glorfindel smiled into her kiss, more than eager to return the sweetly warm caresses of her mouth before Ithilwen drew back and smiled timorously up at him. “And it is-, enough.”
Glorfindel smiled, and reached for her hand. “Come then, and I shall take you home.”