Author’s notes: The previous chapter is here.
Disclaimer: 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.
“I am still quite sure that I put that book to the top shelf. Maybe it has been shifted to the left, near the wall?” Aurelin was looking up at Elanor, who stood on a chair and was reaching for a red-backed volume. The chair started to dip and Elanor squeaked but Aurelin managed to grab the back of the chair and return all of its four legs to the flag-stoned floor.
“No, it is not here. This one is the Customs of the Exiles. Can I please come down?” Elanor looked at Aurelin reproachfully.
“Yes. I guess I will have to wait until Elrond can help me.”
While Elanor put away the chair, Aurelin returned to the middle of the spacious and light-filled library and started to stack the various pieces of parchment that were covering the sanded and faintly carved birchen table.
“Are you coming with me?” Elanor asked her but Aurelin did not seem to have heard, deep in thoughts and eyes looking far away. Elanor asked her again.
When Aurelin returned to the present, she flashed a smile at her friend. “What? No. You go ahead!” And when Elanor had taken her leave, Aurelin turned back to her musings. She needed that book of the building of Gondolin but it seemed she was not going to find it by herself.
It had been her idea a while ago that if she had her nose constantly in books, then she could and should give something back as well. It had not taken a lot of thinking what it could be and Elrond had also agreed with Aurelin that some of the older books and scrolls could be better preserved if they were copied and that was what Aurelin had taken upon herself.
She was planning in her mind what was to be the next book she would start rewriting after the Gondolin one, humming a cheerful tune and taking in the sudden waft of salty sea-air (or what she guessed would be the smell of the sea for she had never seen it’s wide waters), when she walked around the table, came to face the door and happened to raise her eyes. At first her gaze just slid over the person leaning on the doorframe and watching her. She resumed closing the various books until her mind understood what she had seen. Whipping her head up she exclaimed,
Though it had been three years since they were betrothed, Aurelin was as in love with Laswing Gilgaer, probably more so, than when they first pledged their love. They met half-way between the door and where Aurelin was standing. When the tender greetings were done, Laswing, with his arm around Aurelin’s shoulders, led her back to the table.
“I am glad to be back!” he whispered into her ear before drawing a chair from under the table and contentedly sinking onto it.
It had been difficult to accept, more so for Aurelin, that they would have to be apart, for Gilgaer still served the Shipwright and would need to return at times to Mithlond. Jealously Aurelin had thought to have him all for herself after they were betrothed, but it was not so. By now she had accepted it but nonetheless disliked it still.
“I was expecting you to come next week.” Aurelin threw him a questioning look as she finished stacking the books into two little towers.
“Am I not allowed to miss you and beg my lord to allow me to return earlier?”
“Of course you are, my love! In fact I will demand that the next time!”
“Give you a leaf and you claim the whole tree!” Gilgaer took her hand and drew her to closer to the chair-arm. “So, my fair lady, how have you fared?”
“I have been well. Though there was trouble, I heard, in the high passes, a group of travelling Dwarves was attacked by Orcs up there.”
Laswing’s brows knitted in alarm but he tried to not let Aurelin know how much he did not like those tidings. Rumours of Orcs and Trolls were multiplying and it did not mean well for anyone.
“What did you say?” he asked absentmindedly from Aurelin who had settled to lean against the edge of the table that was carved in flying swans.
“I asked how your journey went.” Having seen that far-away thoughtful look in Laswing’s eyes Aurelin was hoping he would share some light on what made him worry and it might have shown on her face but Gilgaer chose to ignore it.
“The road was quite safe. I was quite drenched by the strong rain just after passing Bree and there were wolf-tracks near the Last Bridge, but otherwise the journey was uneventful. Círdan asked about you once again!”
Aurelin’s eyes widened in surprise. “Oh?”
Laswing laughed, seeing her blush. “He is anxious to find out more about this mysterious lady I chose to be betrothed to. I have a feeling he was plotting for me to wed a daughter of his friend.”
“And did he have reasons for those plans?” Aurelin asked, half joking, half serious.
Inside Laswing grinned – that fiery heart of Aurelin’s made grew jealous quickly!
“If I was to lie to see what you did if there was something, it would probably result in unpleasant consequences for me, so therefore I will not jest with you. No, there is, nor was no reason for you to get jealous, my Celebrendhae.” He took Aurelin’s hand from the edge of the birch-table and kissed it. She was still frowning but that gesture calmed her.
“You know I would delight in going with you to Mithlond but it is as certain that after that cursed wound of mine, you will not let me leave Imladris in years yet! Am I right?”
“You are!” Instantly Laswing’s smile was wiped away and he looked haunted. “I still sometimes dream of those nightmarish days with you teetering on the doorsill of Mandos’ Halls. I never want to feel despair such as what I did when I thought you would perish!”
It had been unwise for Aurelin to bring that up. As much as they both were glad that they had realised they loved each other, and the race with time and for Aurelin’s life had helped them along the way, she knew that Laswing did not want to be reminded of that. He was gazing past her at one of the red birds from the garden scene of the flagstones in remembrance and in a flurry of velvet and silk Aurelin came to kneel beside his chair and laying her hand on his cheek, turned his head so that he was looking at her. There was no need to speak. All the reassurance that was needed was in Aurelin’s eyes as she lowered her chin onto Gilgaer’s wrist resting on the chair-arm.
“I am sorry! It must have been that I just came by the same road that I am as unhinged as I am.” Helping Aurelin to her feet, Laswing shook his head to put those memories behind him. Concern was written all over Aurelin’s face and was in the way she held herself protectively over him (or tried to – she only did come up to his chin), so he gave her a little smile and led her outside to look at the setting sun. All around them autumn was claiming its own – the leaves of the trees around the house were yellow with slight streaks of red, birds were settling more close to the House where they knew that with the first colds seeds would be laid out to them. A front of stained blue clouds in the east promised rain for the night.
Aurelin broke the silence when the last rays of the sun vanished behind the snowy heights of the mountains. Laswing was standing behind her and she was leaning into him with her arms wrapped with his that were around her. Aurelin did not turn when she spoke softly:
“At the time when you were bringing me to Imladris, I think I dreamed, or saw things.”
She felt Gilgaer nodding, his chin resting on the top of her head.
“Those were visions of my parents and then my life with them. And seeing that again made me almost give in to death. But then at the moment of letting go, I remembered you and understood that I could not leave you like that – not through a choice of mine. I could not do that! All the stories my mother or father had told me of their lives came to life before my eyes and I saw everything as if I had been there. I also understood how much our love mirrors theirs and how like my mother I am.”
“I hope not,” Laswing murmured almost inaudibly.
“…she did not seem as stubborn as me but then again…. What did you say?”
“Nothing.” But Aurelin could feel him tense. The sounds of Elves moving and talking about the House seemed unnaturally loud compared to the silence that had suddenly fallen around the two.
“No. You said that you hoped I was not like my mother. Why would you speak so?” Confused, she unwrapped his arms from around her and turned to face him. Laswing looked as if he wished he never had said anything, but Aurelin would not let go.
After sighing, he spoke slowly. “I meant that I hoped you were not like your mother in one respect. I know you are not.”
“What are you saying?” There was an angry flicker in her eyes.
“I mean no disrespect to Calenloth Dúril, but she wronged you after your father died.”
Aurelin’s eyes widened in shock, she was taking deeper breaths as if battling to stay calm.
“She loved him more deeply than I could ever understand. He had always been by her side and then he was gone. What did you want her to do?” Aurelin demanded.
“My love, she should not have left you alone!”
“You do not have the right to say that!” she exclaimed. “She staid so long, because of me, before taking the ship.”
Laswing took a step towards Aurelin but she only held out her hand. “No, don’t!”
“Not the ship. She left you alone when Belegorn died. Those years she was in Imladris you were still alone. Gwingloth, I wish you would promise me that if something should happen to me, you would not give in to sorrow like that.”
There were tears in Aurelin’s eyes, she was shaking her head, not wanting to listen and hating every word Laswing spoke. Angrily she paced left and right, gripping her skirt.
“But I know you would not. You, Aurelin, are stronger than your mother ever was. It was not right for her to deny you the chance to help her with her pain, she did not do that on purpose but she did close you off. It nothing to blame, really, but you are different.”
Eyes aflame Aurelin shot: “How can you say something like that! She loved my father and he loved her with all their hearts. She had lost my brother, for Elbereth’s sake! And her home, twice, and her sister, sister’s sons and almost her own life too.”
Gilgaer reached out to her once more and though she pushed his right hand away, he drew her to him with his left. Stroking her hair and looking deep into her angry and stubbornly set emerald eyes he confronted her with his calm.
“It is ever the most awful moment to understand that one’s parents are not perfect, that they can err! Dearest, I beg you not to hate me for what I said. I would have let it lie but you insisted. You would not have let me leave it unsaid.”
He fell silent and waited for her to stop fighting the hold he had on her. “Are you still furious with me?” Laswing asked very softly, when she finally did. For a moment Aurelin thought to shoot back in spite that she hated him for what he said but she could not lie with Laswing’s brown eyes gazing into hers.
She closed hers and remained like that for a while before lowering her head to rest on the front of his tunic.
Laswing let her anger drift away and just held her there under the waking stars that shone upon the two, the growing wind of a soon-to-begin rain rustling the leaves and the branches of pines and firs.
“It was all the fault of the cursed Fëanor and his sons!” Aurelin stated into Laswing’s burgundy cloak. “They caused so much pain for everyone of Doriath and the Mouths of Sirion. After having those dreams, I feel as if they did it all to me. Morgoth take them! I hate them for all they did!”
Aurelin raised her head for the first time after ending the quarrel and Laswing could see the heat, with which she said the last, shining on her face.
“Gwingloth, you should not say that! Or harbour such hate because of things done in the past and not to you. Those days were….They did answer for what they did and it should be enough.”
Aurelin shook her head and tried to argue but Gilgaer smiled a strange smile as he took a strand of Aurelin’s coppery hair and let it slide over his fingers.
“You say you hate the Fëanoreans but you are similar to them in some ways. No, do not get angry again! You have to accept that you have a temper somewhat like theirs, if not with such ruinous consequences, and even your hair – Maedhros and Amrod and Amras have as coppery hair as yours, I know, I have seen them. You have something in common with those you claim to hate. Do you not see it as Allfather’s way of telling you to renounce your hatred that only poisons you and is nothing to the Fëanoreans who are in the Halls of Mandos and know nothing of you.”
“It is easy for you to say!” Aurelin argued. “You did not suffer at their hands, your cities were destroyed by Morgoth, you never had to face your own kin in battle and realise that they would slay you to get what they needed! You have seen so many years and are so wise and calm and…”
Sadly Laswing shook his head. “My sweet, I am not perfect either. You have to accept that as well. There are others besides the Fëanoreans, not all ill has been done in Middle-earth that I consider evil done to as well to me. I have hated and done things I am ashamed of because of that. I still feel deep resentment for one in particular and I will have to face and answer for that. Soon, I feel.”
Aurelin did not like the eerie sound of his voice. She was used to Laswing always being composed and calm, someone she always know would make her see all her fears were unfounded or that she could face them. The first drops of rain spattered onto their faces. Desperate to put that whole evening from the moment they had started talking of that day she got the pierced shoulder behind them, Aurelin tried to sound as cheerful as she could.
“Let us just forget everything! You have just returned to Imladris and we have not spoken of anything besides how much we missed each other. Agreed?”
Not waiting for the answer, she took his hand and led him down the walkway into the kitchens, to get out of the rain and see whether they could find something to eat.