Author’s notes: The previous chapter can be found here.
Disclaimer: All the characters and places, the entire world, (well, besides Aurelin, Laswing, Calenloth and Belegorn) belong to JRRT.
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Slash, slash. Parry, parry. Slash, parry, parry, slash.
Aurelin was trying to keep up with Laswing’s attack and defence. They were busy with knife-fighting like they had been for many months now after another journey of Laswing’s to Mithlond and back.
When Laswing had first learned of Aurelin’s new knives, he had wanted to test and better her skills. Her knife-throwing was almost as accurate as her arrow-shooting. Now they had turned to the fighting part of it, although Aurelin had already said to Leafspray that she would be throwing the knives, he had insisted on the importance of using the weapons to the full.
Laswing was holding his two long daggers and tried to get Aurelin to use hers with the greatest effect.
With her shorter knives it was hard to face longer ones but Aurelin was at least able to parry, and attack occasionally. Her natural quickness and surefootedness enabled her to get out of the way of the sharp blades.
The two Elves enjoyed this exercise immensely: Aurelin could see Laswing grinning while delivering strong blows against her daggers. Aurelin’s eyes were aglow with delight at the physical exercise and the dancelike movements of the mock-fight.
Parry, slash, parry, parry, slash, slash, slash. Aurelin got too careless. She started to attack Laswing, leaving herself open to possible attacks, looked up to him to smile and lost concentration – an easy thing to do for her lately when she looked deeply into his drowning eyes. Suddenly there was stuff softer than the metal of knives under his knife. Aurelin’s laughing eyes showed surprise and the next thing, she dropped her dagger, just stood there and raised her wrist to her eyes.
Leafspray had drawn back both his weapons as soon as he touched her flesh and sheathing the knives he stepped to see Aurelin’s wrist. Concern was written on his face but fortunately it was just a minor slash. He insisted on her letting him look at it but the wound was nothing serious.
“I ask for your forgiveness, Aurelin! I went too fast.”
“It’s nothing, “Aurelin tried telling him, “just a cut. And besides, it was more of my own making than yours. I should have been more careful.”
“Take this leaf, I have seen the healers use that to stop bleeding, ” Leafspray pushed a leaf againg the wound, “I am sure this’ll help. Hold your hand on it!”
Aurelin followed the instructions more out of want to please him than the need of it. Her initial reaction had been due to surprise and she felt only mild stinging from her blood-stained wrist. She told the same to the Elf who could have almost been called fussing around her. The bleeding had stopped and Aurelin removed the leaf. She gave him an assuring smile,
“It’s alright. You don’t have to look so frightened anymore!”
The worried look was slow to leave her friend’s face but he saw that the slash was a shallow one and at last he gave her a fleeting smile, turning back to serious almost at once. The training for the day was finished and Laswing insisted she let a healer look at the wound, escorting her there himself.
There was going to be a feast to celebrate the soon-arriving summer with dancing and songs. Aurelin and Laswing had both went to make ready for the feasting and they met later before the doors to the eating hall. When Elrond arrived and sat down, the feast was officially begun. The room filled with merry laughter and the quiet murmur of words spoken. Candles were burning around the large room, making everything bright and cheerful.
Aurelin searched for her friend Elanor with her eyes and finally locating her, went to sit beside her. Elanor was quick to ask about her health of course of which Aurelin concluded that she had heard of the incident with the knives somehow. Aurelin showed her the already healing wound, saying it was her first battle wound but told Elanor that it was not a big thing to talk much about and started to discuss a song of Beleriand instead.
The eating and drinking went on for a long while but at last Master Elrond rose and proclaimed that the party was progressing to the Hall of Fire. Aurelin excused herself to change into a dress more suitable for dancing. She ran to her rooms and put on another gown. As she was walking to the Hall she made up her mind to gather all her courage and speak of her feelings to Laswing that night. She arrived in the midst of other hurrying Elves who were all headed to the feasting.
In the Hall the singing had started and Elves were dancing here and there. Gilgaer chanced to look in the direction of the doorway when Aurelin appeared. She seemed to him the vision of utmost beauty – red hair glinting in the light, in a leaf-green and sapphire blue gown that emphasized her green eyes, the eyes in turn making her whole face glow. Her gaze held a mix of laughter, delight, determination and strangely, doubt.
She stood there waiting until he came to her and taking her hand bowed,
“Will you do me the honour of dancing with me?” he asked, “Preferably the entire evening.”
“And what about the other ladies here? They will be angry at me occupying all of your time,” said Aurelin with a smirk looking at the handsome Elf all in grey-blue silk.
“Oh, I have danced with all of them already!” laughed Laswing leading her closer to the source of music.
They were both wonderful dancers and matched each other well, when one lead the other to more and more intricate steps the other matched these. How long they danced, Aurelin didn’t know but when they finally stopped she walked to an empty and more quiet corner of the room with Leafspray beside her.
“I have wanted to talk to you about something for a while now,” she started.
She was about to speak when they were approached by a dark-haired Elf who apologized for interrupting them but said that Elrond had something urgent to talk to Laswing. In this way Aurelin was left alone, with Laswing’s promise to listen to her as soon as he came back.
Aurelin was a little angry at the messenger cutting short the words she had gathered courage for. But after waiting this long to talk of her love towards Leafspray this short span of time seemed a trifling. She went back to sing with Elanor and dance, heart racing and anxious.
While Aurelin was dancing, Elrond spoke with Laswing. He had just received a message that a band of Orcs was headed to the east, harassing people. The tidings were that these Orcs were going to some hidden lair of theirs in the Misty Mountains past the Ettenmoors. The company had just passed the Weather Hills.
“Glorfindel has business elsewhere so I ask you, Laswing, to gather some thirty Elves and stop the Orcs from doing more harm. If you set off tomorrow I believe you’ll catch them somewhere between Mitheithel and the Weather Hills. I didn’t want to ruin the feast by announcing it loud but the matter is urgent.”
“I will assemble the company that is to ride and we’ll depart early tomorrow morning.”
When Laswing got back to Aurelin he talked to her of the errand.
“What did you want to tell me about?” he asked when he had related all that had been said.
“I…it doesn’t matter now,” answered Aurelin, feeling that the time for the talk was not right.
“I will make ready for tomorrow then,” she said with a confident air.
“You? Aurelin, I don’t know. Did you think you could come with me?” Laswing frowned.
“It could be dangerous…”
“And it won’t be perilous for you?” Aurelin countered.
“You have never been in a real battle before. I don’t want to take you. I won’t!” was the resolute answer.
“And who are you to take me with you?” Aurelin got angrier, “It’s my choice.”
“First of all, I am the leader of the company, so I have the right to choose. Secondly, I wouldn’t wish to put you in harm’s way as a friend.”
“But you have said that I was as good with the bow as I could. And in the knife-throwing as well,” argued the short maiden in green dress. “How can I ever be able to take care of myself when you won’t let me go out and test my skills in real life?” To Aurelin’s mind came their big fight in the same room many years ago. “Please! Let me come!”
Her argument had been a strong one despite the loss of calm. Gazing into her pleading eyes Laswing just couldn’t say no.
“Alright then, you may come. But only if you stay close to me and promise to be very careful.”
“I do! And I promise not to let you down. You’ll see your decision to let me accompany you was not a false one!” said Aurelin with a tiny smile of satisfaction at finally getting the chance to prove herself.
The next bright early morning found her ontop of Alagos with her travelling clothes on, the bow on her back and her knives hidden in her garments. She was sitting next to Laswing’s horse Elthoron, both horses impatient and neighing softly.
Elrond had been reluctant to give Aurelin leave to ride with the Elves but at last he had yielded to Aurelin’s eyes and Laswing’s reasonings.
The last words of Elrond still in her ears she waited for Laswing to mount and then after a call of a horn, thirty Elves galloped after him with Aurelin’s red hair among the first.
When the dust had settled and the company was out of sight, Elrond was still looking to the west, worry in his eyes.