Author’s notes: For those looking for the previous chapter, it is here.
A “*” indicates a note that is given in the end.
Disclaimer: All the world of Eä is the wonderful creation of JRR Tolkien, I am only borrowing and making no money . I do claim ownership of Aurelin, Laswing, Calenloth and Belegorn, though.
The first thing that Aurelin knew when she gained consciousness was that she was home. Her nose detected the smell of pines and spray, ears the rushing water, and when she opened her eyes, these found the delicate scene of the waterfall carved into the ceiling of her room – it was the most welcome sight she had ever seen. Turning her head slightly, she took in the room and saw a familiar figure looking out of the window beside the door, his back to her. Maybe she had been wrong, that might have been an even more welcome sight. Her face lit up in a smile and her cheeks took on colour as she looked Gilgaer up and down, discerning no sign of wounds on him.
Laswing felt her eyes upon him and he turned from watching the arrival of the company of Elves whom he had left when he had rushed back to Imladris with Aurelin. They looked tired, but as well as can be expected, even the ones wounded, but the burden of the body of Mothil*, the slain Elf, on his horse was grievous indeed. Seeing Aurelin now coherent and smiling no less, he felt relief that was unequalled (though tinged with a small amount of shame that he should feel so happy that she was well when someone had been slain and gone to Mandos). Aurelin had remained unconscious for too long and his worries had built themselves up again, despite Elrond’s assurances. For a moment he was rooted to the ground, looking at her, drawing in every inch of her face. Then he smiled brightly and hurried to her side.
He sat on the edge of the bed and Aurelin meant to give him more room, so she raised herself on her elbows but had to sink back with a soft yelp.
“Let me!” Gilgaer put his arms around her and lifted her to sit up with her back against the pillows.
“I forgot,” she said with a wry smile. “Thank you!”
In silence, they looked at each other for a minute. Finally Aurelin lowered her eyes, beginning to fear that hers might reveal too much when gazing into those brown depths for too long.
“I assume I will live.”
Laswing was taken aback by her looking away, but he hid it quickly and could not help but grin. “You will.”
“How did I get here?”
“Alagos and Elthoron and I brought you.”
Aurelin nodded. “I thought as much.”
“I left the others and rode ahead. You would have died but you fought well. I though I’d lost you when we reached Imladris but you have more spirit in you that to succumb to an Orc-arrow.”
“Do I? I…It is hazy.” Aurelin could remember somewhat of her floating in that blackness and wanting to let go. “Orc-arrow? Was that it? I recall that the Orcs were almost all slain and that I saw you fighting that big one but then – nothing.”
“One of them had a bow and it shot you from the trees.” Gilgaer looked haunted from the memory. He did not want to think about those days that followed the shot. Aurelin sensed it.
“I have a feeling you will not let me talk you into anything from now on!”
“You are right! But it was not entirely your doing, so you might have a chance yet. I should not have left your side!”
Aurelin put her hand on Laswing’s reassuringly. “But you had to! It was my fate to get shot and to live through it. It helped me to understand things about myself.”
“You could not have uttered truer words!” he said to her with an expression that seemed strange to Aurelin. “But now I think I should go and bring Lord Elrond, for he needs to know that you have woken and could come to check your wound. Besides, he would have my hide if he thought I tired you too much.” Laswing rose and headed towards the doorway.
“But you’ll be back?” Aurelin’s tone was hopeful.
“You have my word. I will look after you!”
He looked tired and Aurelin reprimanded herself for her egotism. It was clear he had watched over her the entire time and must be exhausted to death by now.
“Laswing, I’m sorry! It might be that my head is clouded from the healing draughts. I see that you are weary. There is no need to guard me now, not anymore. Please, go and get some decent rest, I beg you. Do not tire yourself on my account and without serious need!”
“I am not doing any such thing, Aurelin. I am alright.”
“No you are not and I won’t take no for an answer!” She told him in a non-brooking tone.
“If it will make you happy, Gwingloth, I will rest in the evenings when you can have the healers to see to you and your needs, but in the mornings and nights, I will be here to talk to you and give you a cup of water or read a book out loud or whatever you might desire?”
“As my Lord commands and wishes!” Aurelin made a mocking sitting-bow and watched him go out the door to find Elrond. Contentedly she snuggled into the pillows and just listened to the sounds of people talking and moving about, horses’ hooves, birds and the roaring of the falls coming from the windows. She revelled in them, remembering sharply the quiet in the void that had surrounded her before she woke.
When Elrond arrived, he gave Aurelin a big hug.
“You are looking well, my dear!” he told her while changing her bandage. “The wound is healing and you are in good spirits. What more could I ask for?”
“My Lord, you have my deepest gratitude for saving my life!”
Aurelin laid her right hand before her heart, not wanting to touch and accidentally disturb the wound.
“Gwingloth, I healed you but there would not have been much to heal if Gilgaer Laswing had not got you here in time. He did do that, barely. You were almost gone when he came racing up to my quarters with you in his arms, pale as death and weak as a cygnet.”
“He told me how he rode here, I owe you both my life and gratefulness.”
“I knew you should not have gone on that errand as soon as you spurred your horse to the west from these doors. But I also knew that there was nothing I could do to stop you. I worried for days!” Elrond’s gaze was dull. “I did not get Celebrían from before my eyes. I still remember that when she talked about going to visit her mother and father, I felt quite the same but, the Valar curse me, I did not dissuade her from going.” His sharp eyes found Aurelin’s, who had tears in hers because the capturing of Elrond’s wife was tied up to her beloved father’s slaying. “I thought you might be returned to us as she was or worse – that your fate should be like your father’s was.”
A smile worked its way on Aurelin’s face. “But it was not so! I feel better already. The shoulder only hurts a little, compared to how it did when I had the arrow in it.”
“Song of Sunlight you are indeed. Let’s banish the sad thoughts and be happy for what we have! I’ll send Lothwen to you with a draught to take so the pain would be duller.” Elrond laid a hand on Aurelin’s cheek and walked around the bed to tuck her in before he left.
It took a week for Aurelin to be let out of her bed. Surprisingly it was not Elrond or the other healers who kept her there but Gilgaer who insisted that she should not tax herself to let her body heal properly. All that time he was with her every day from the dusk till noon, reading to her or just talking, retelling stories of the Eldar and the Edain and the Gonnhirrim*, or drawing images of her (that came as a very delightful surprise to her – she had had no idea he drew – and now the bedside table was graced by a portrait of her and a small sketch of the two of them sitting by the Bruinen). Each nightfall he came to her with flowers, so by the end of the week her rooms looked like a garden and smelled like one too.
But now she was finally out in the open air and it was immensely refreshing. Aurelin had asked the help of two handmaids to help her get into a red and purple dress with moderately flowing sleeves and with practically no train (to be more manageable by someone only having the use of one arm) and to arrange her hair in five slender braids amongst a tumble of soft waves. Her left arm was tied around her neck, so she was unable to even get a dress on (something she had found out early on, for as usual, she had been stubborn enough to tell herself that she needed no help). She had walked to the garden onto its edges, to the arbour with the bench above the waterfall. It was good to sit down and stare at the spray and feel the droplets on her face. No one was about the grounds as everyone was enjoying the tunes of the newly arrived harper from Harlindon in the Hall of Fire.
“So here you are!” Laswing announced from behind her. “When you were not in your room, I was worried but the girls told me that you had gone to take a walk. I could not believe my ears! Does Elrond know that you are outside?”
“He did recommend that himself!” Aurelin half-turned to say triumphantly. Though not exactly truth, it had a nice ring to it, and besides, the Lord of Imladris had said that being outside was always the best cure, once.
Gilgaer looked at her glowing face and knew that she was returning to her health. It had been difficult for him to be beside her every day and keep his feelings for her hidden in fear of upsetting her and ruining the curing process. She looked fine now. Could he end his longing as well?
“Aurelin,” he implored, “are you truly feeling alright? I need to speak with you of something.”
The elleth’s* face showed puzzlement. “I am feeling well. What is it that you could not tell me if it was not so. Has something happened? Something with Arwen or her brothers? Do you have to go to the Havens?” Her tone became more agitated with every new question.
“Nothing of that sort! I…,by Elbereth, I never thought it to be so hard. Aurelin, you said that when you were enduring the pain of the wound, you began to understand some things about yourself. It was the same for me. I know you for a long while now. I can still remember when you walked into the Hall of Fire after returning from Mirkwood. Your grief was plain to see and I vowed to Elrond to help you get over it. I was your teacher and friend. I was also blind. I had thought that the woman for me was not in Middle-earth but waited in the West, so my mind did not let me consider anything else.”
Aurelin’s eyes had gone round and they got bigger as he knelt on one knee before her and took her hand in both of his.
“Why are you telling this to me?” she asked in a timidly with a trembling voice.
“Because, Gwingloth, my heart had turned to you the moment I saw you and it was not friendship I have felt for you for some time now. My feelings went much deeper and I did not understand that before you were almost dying in my arms. I knew that I’d die of grief if you were slain, I called you with the names my heart had given to you. Aurelin Gwingloth, meleth nîn*. I love you! You are my love and life, dearer to me than anything. I am yours forever, if you’ll have me!”
Aurelin threw her head back to laugh. That was not a reaction Laswing would have expected. He looked up at her questioningly and then saw that she her laughter had had been replaced by crying and two weak sobs escaped her lips.
“Aurelin? Shh, it’s all right. I should have waited, I am upsetting you.”
She started to fall forward, loosing her balance on the bench and he steadied her but the next moment she jumped up and stepped around him to stand looking at the mountains behind the House, spreading her only free arm wide to the side. Warily, Laswing remained on one knee. Then as quickly as she had risen, Aurelin whirled around, crying and laughing (again) at the same time. Her face was aglow with the sweetest smile. The green eyes found the unsure brown.
“We are such dolts, aren’t we!” Aurelin exclaimed, trying to still her flowing tears but not succeeding.
Laswing rose. He still could not understand a thing. Aurelin walked up to him, unbound hand gripping the pendant of the necklace he had gifted her.
“I thought it was going to be so hard for me to speak and when I gathered my courage the message came of the Orc band. Finally when I was afraid that I’d die, I tried to tell you but I fainted before I could – Of course I’ll have you! Laswing, I love you with all my heart. I recognised my heart two years ago but I was afraid you only saw me as a pupil and a friend. I made up ways to tell you even during this week and now you…”
It took half a minute for Gilgaer to sink in but when it did he threw his arms around Aurelin’s slender waist and drew her passionately to him, though remembering not to pressure her left shoulder. Her left hand was bound and pressed between them, but her right hand she laid on his heart.
“I thought you were supposed to be older and therefore wiser!” she said with a grin, straining her neck to look into his eyes.
He countered. “And my impression of you was that your temper never let you be patient, ever!”
“Eriant I name you, my love. My Daybringer, you brought me out of the shadows and the long night, lit my sun again. The thought of you held me in this world, Laswing, I would have been glad to go to Mandos if it had not been for you.”
Laswing’s hand had crept up her back under her hair and to the back of her neck and he started to kiss away the tears that still fell from her eyes. Searching for another of the shining drops, he had drawn his head somewhat back, making it possible for Aurelin’s eyes to focus on his hazel brown and she felt the soft colour envelope her before he again lowered his face and this time brought his lips down on hers and all reasonable or coherent thoughts flew out of her head.
1) Mothil(Dusk-star) – It is the same Elf that was slain Mothgil in the chapter of long ago but I have gone through a Sindarin course between publishing the chapters and the g of “gil” undergoes soft mutation and becomes “‘il”
2) Gonnhirrim – “Masters of Stone”, a name for the Dwarves
3) elleth – “Elf-maiden”
4) meleth nîn – “my love”