Biting his lip, the young ellon Rossnen bent low over his parchment. The inky Elvish letters seemed to dance before his eyes, little twisting flicks of black spiralling about each other, teasing his wearied eyes. He dipped the nib of his quill into the ink and brought it to the page. His hair, dark as the ink itself, fell forwards over his shoulders and spilled on to the manuscript. He brought his quill down, and watched a dark splat of ink form upon the parchment. He was frowning, straining his memory, but to no avail. The letters leapt and twirled…
“Nínim?” he murmured, at last.
“Yes?” asked his sister, looking up from her own work.
“Which of the Two Trees was the younger?” He glanced up to the young maiden, who rolled her eyes in an exaggerated manner.
“Rossnen, you don’t listen to anything! It’s Laurelin, of course.” She paused, then added sarcastically, “That’s the gold one.”
“I know that! Leave me alone!” He bent down and scrawled a few words, his normally imprecise hand almost illegible.
“And are you still on the Trees?” smirked Nínim. “I finished them ages ago. I’m on the Sun and Moon, now.”
“And I’ve written some of it in Quenya, to make Linfëa happy.”
“I don’t care.”
“Mine’s going to be so much better.”
“Be quiet!” Infuriated by this mockery from one younger than himself, Rossnen leapt from his seat. Running to his sister, he flicked his quill at her parchment. Spatters of ink leapt forth over her neatly inscribed page.
“There!” he cried triumphantly. “You’ll have to write it out again, now.”
Nínim paused, staring down at the small pools of black. Then she looked up to her brother, her cheeks burning.
“I hate you, Rossnen!” she gasped; and leaping from her seat threw herself at the young ellon, yelling insults in a childishly high-pitched voice.
Crying out as the maiden’s full bulk hit him, Rossnen fell to the ground, and, laughing, began to wrestle with the furious Nínim. “Be calm, sister! What would Linfëa think!” he taunted, rolling over and grasping her wrists as she struggled and kicked. Finally he managed to pin her down upon the floor; and she, with a last furious kick, lay still.
“You … you … you Orc,” she spat, through clenched teeth. “You wait. You just wait.”
“I don’t fear you,” he retorted.
“Get off me!”
A soft click heralded the opening of the door, but both youngsters were too distracted to notice. The Elf in the doorway glanced over the scene, first with an eyebrow arched in surprise, and then with a smile beginning to slowly spread over his face.
“Let me up! Or I’ll kick you, I’ll kick you!” squealed Nínim.
“Not until you say you’re sorry for laughing at me!”
“I didn’t! Let me up, get off me!”
“I won’t. You’ll stay here until you apologise,” said Rossnen exultantly. He leaned further over his sister, smirking triumphantly. “Apologise!” But even as Rossnen uttered the command, he felt strong arms encircle his waist, grasping him tightly. The ellon started and gulped, not daring to look round.
“Let her go,” came a smooth voice from behind. Slowly, Rossnen released Nínim’s wrists, and felt himself drawn up into the air. Nínim scrambled up with a mixture of guilt and glee.
“It was all him, Linfëa!” she cried, shaking back her hair and beaming up to him innocently. Linfëa chuckled softly, putting down an indignant Rossnen and looking to both youngsters.
“Have you finished your writing?” he asked. Rossnen, his angry retort to Nínim dying upon his lips, flushed and glanced away.
“I would have, but he got it all inky! For no reason at all!” cried Nínim.
“Liar,” muttered Rossnen resentfully.
“Now,” said Linfëa, fighting back a grin, “enough. I am convinced that you were both of you to blame. You must finish your writing, and I expect no more of this until that is done. Agreed?”
Glowering at each other, the two Elflings nodded their agreement.
Nimross slashed his sword through the air, so swiftly the blade looked like naught but a streak of silver. With a proud nod, he ran his finger carefully along the shiny metal, feeling it cool and smooth; and he looked, too, at the hilt, which was expertly engraved with twirling images depicting a hunt, that spiralled round until meeting themselves again. A single red stone studded the wood, and seemed almost to glow as if fire burned within it. Nimross tried a few more quick strokes; then, satisfied, he sheathed the weapon and, with a furtive glance around, seated himself on the damp grass below.
He was in a field; Lake Mithrim glimmered in the distance, with the streets and houses snuggled neatly by its shore. Nobody was in sight. The sky was dull and overcast. The Elf sighed, flicking the blades of grass with his slender fingers. A single pearly drop of rain fell and quivered upon his palm. His place, right now, was within the crafting halls, and mayhap they were missing him. He might have been forgiven for going to his wife, for they all knew how Faelfîn was pining for her home; but coming here, in the dull weather, to sit alone? It was unheard of, especially from Nimross, who was generally without whims or spontaneous decisions; and frowning, the edhel put down his sword. What was the matter with him? Why was he feeling so … empty? Did he, too, miss Aman? Certainly it was beautiful; but he did not, he could not regret the decision he had made for both himself and his wife – that to continue into exile, when their lord Finarfin was turning back. No … there was something else …
His wife, perhaps. It was natural to worry about Faelfîn. He had, admittedly, not done so in the Blessed Realm, when she was a merry, vibrant elleth with rose-tinted cheeks and a bright youthful smile; but she had aged since. The crossing of Helcaraxë had weakened her almost to the point of death; childbirth had drained her further still; and the warm golden complexion he had so admired had faded, leaving her cheeks without colour, and seeming ghostlike besides the pale lank sheet of her hair. She had grown grave and quiet, speaking only of what they had left behind; and he couldn’t help but fear that she should begin to resent him, as the cause of her unhappiness.
Then, of course, there were his children. Nimross could not think of them without a twinge of guilt; for certainly, he did not pay them all the attention he should. Oh, cruel misfortune that they had not come when he and Faelfîn had lived in Aman! Then, he had longed for a son, to teach and train and talk to; but none had been conceived. Certainly, a child born then would have met with the happy, carefree parents that his offspring would now never know; and, after all, the Blessed Realm, with its peace and beauty and wise citizens, was an ideal place for a child to grow up in. But no … the son he had longed for had come when work and state of mind had not allowed devotion; and as for the daughter that had followed … well, Nimross had simply never wished for a daughter, nor had he ever thought that it would be his duty to bring her up if she did materialise.
Yes … the children had been born, ten years apart … and neither he nor Faelfîn had been excessively glad of it. They had fared as best they could for the first two decades, endeavouring at least to watch over their young ones; but when Aelolaur had offered to teach and care for them, both had leapt at the suggestion, and henceforth had seen very little of the two. Neither had known Aelolaur well at the time; he was a young, unmarried ellon, with a fondness of singing, that was all they were aware of; but whether due to necessity or desire, they had placed complete trust in him. And he had, over the years, given them little cause to regret the decision. Some day, Nimross promised himself, he would take his son on and train him himself. But not yet. Later. When the boy was full-grown, perhaps.
Another cool drop of rain fell on Nimross’ arm; and more soon followed it. Swiftly rain began to splash on the ground and trickle over Nimross’ figure. The heavens were opening, and even as the Elf rose a great downpour began to hammer about him. Water was seeping through his tunic, leaving dark patches, and plastering his dripping hair to his face; a great silver-grey sheet was all about him, washing the colour from the surroundings; drops were leaping from the metal of his sword. Sighing again, Nimross took up his weapon, and began to move slowly away through the rain.