Snaga tried not to stare as the company rode into Rivendell, but it was not easy to keep her awe from showing on her face. Lothlorien had been beautiful, there was no doubt about that, but Rivendell was beautiful in a less aloof way. It seemed less of a wonderful dream and more of a reality to Snaga, and she had to work hard to not gawk at everything she saw.
Arwen, riding next to her, had a huge smile on her face. She was lucky – she didn’t have to worry about the all-important first impression she would make. Snaga took a deep breath to calm down her rising nerves and turned her horse down the path that Arwen took. It didn’t help her nerves that Elves were watching their procession from their balconies, but it did help her sense of occasion. She straightened in her saddle and relaxed her white-knuckled grip on her horse’s mane.
Beside her, Snaga heard her cousin whisper in her ear, “My father is coming out to meet us. There – you can see him!” Arwen indicated Elrond with a slight nod of her head forward. Snaga leaned forward as well to peer over the heads of their escort. A second train of mounted Elves was coming to meet theirs, and at their head rode a dark-haired Elf with a circlet of silver that bound about his head. He did not look like his daughter, she decided – Arwen resembled Galadriel to Snaga’s eyes, and her mother probably even more. But the smooth surety with which she sat her horse, her coolness in battle, her level head in almost every situation Snaga had seen her in – those were gifts of her father.
Lord Elrond’s train drew level with theirs. He took in the situation in one smooth, calm glance and said, “Welcome to Imladris, emissaries of the Lady Galadriel.” The leader of their train inclined his head, and Elrond turned his eyes on Arwen and Snaga. Arwen swallowed visibly, but kept her head high as she looked back at her father. Snaga suddenly thought that perhaps Arwen had not gotten her father’s permission to accompany Gandalf to Mordor. For her own part, she met her uncle’s eye squarely, trying to inject as much calmness into her gaze as he held in his. She thought she saw a flicker of approval in his eyes before he broke their mutual stare and went on with the polite words of welcome. Suddenly it was all Snaga could do to keep from collapsing in a dead faint over her horse’s neck. She had just taken some kind of test, and she had the exhilarating feeling that she had passed it.
Somehow she made it inside Elrond’s house and into Arwen’s room. Arwen, leading the way, turned around and grinned as Snaga collapsed across her bed with a groan. “Tired?” Arwen asked mischievously.
“Go away,” Snaga laughed, reaching for a pillow and throwing it at her cousin.
Arwen ducked it. “Not polite!” she giggled, and threw it right back. Snaga rose up on her knees to catch it, and the door to Arwen’s room opened. Snaga fell back self-consciously to a sitting position as the newcomer took three strides into the room and grabbed Arwen around the waist, hugging her. Arwen’s face lit up, and she threw her arms around the intruder, laughing. Snaga bit her lip and looked down at her knees, feeling decidedly out of place. She cast a few glances at the two from under her eyelashes, wondering who the newcomer was. Finally he let Arwen go. Snaga heard a male voice ask, “Who are you?”
Snaga looked up with a start, realizing he was talking to her, and found herself looking at a younger, handsomer version of Elrond. This was an unlooked-for test. An Elf maiden of her own age was no problem at all, but an Elf man was something else altogether. Besides, what could she give as her name? Aglarfin, the only Elven name she had any claim to, felt more like a title to her than a real name, and she didn’t want to see the look on his face if she gave her name in Black Speech. She coughed and played with a strand of her hair.
Arwen saved her. “Honestly, Elrohir, try to be polite!” she scolded. “This is our cousin.”
Elrohir’s gray eyes widened. “We have a cousin?”
“Well, obviously!” Snaga bristled. “Who else would I be?” She glared at Elrohir, but she regretted her outburst. As she had just pointed out, he was her cousin, and she should not bite his head off at their first meeting.
“She was held in Mordor against her will,” Arwen said quietly. “She is the daughter of Galadwen, who is dead.”
Snaga swallowed. The fat was in the fire now. She did shoot Arwen a thankful look for making the story of her life as simple as she could. Well, since Elrohir knew now that she had lived in Mordor, she could give her name. “My name is Snaga,” she added.
To her surprise, Elrohir did not react in shock to the Mordorian name. Instead he smiled and said, “Welcome to Rivendell, then, cousin.”
Snaga smiled back, a little shyly. He has beautiful eyes, she thought inanely, and then bit her lip for thinking such a silly thing. “Thank you,” she said aloud.
Once the initial introductions had passed, Elrohir put Snaga completely at ease with jokes and easy banter. His good work, however, was almost destroyed when he let slip the fact that Elrond had planned a feast to honor Arwen and Snaga’s return. “He’s what?” Snaga yelped, suddenly terrified. All the Elves of Rivendell gathered in one place…all of them staring at her…she was not up to it, she was just not up to it!
“Calm down!” Arwen said quickly, grabbing Snaga’s hand before she could start pacing frantically around the room. “Father will make it quick, I’m sure, and you aren’t going to be the center of attention the whole time.”
Snaga looked at Arwen pleadingly. “Are you sure?” she asked.
Arwen was tempted to tell the truth and say “No,” but in some cases, the truth was not welcome. This was definitely one of them. “I think so,” she said, putting as much certainty as she could into her words. Snaga calmed down then – a little.
The feast was not as bad as Snaga had thought it would be, despite her impending feelings of doom while getting dressed for it. She was seated next to Elrohir, thoughtfully not in the direct line of eyesight, but next to someone she knew – even if their acquaintance had lasted for a grand total of an hour prior to the feast.
But even without sitting by Elrond or Arwen, Snaga felt the now-familiar but still uncomfortable sensation of eyes trained on her. Finally she leaned over and muttered to Elrohir, “That Elf across the table hasn’t once stopped staring at me!” She felt herself go red as she spoke.
Elrohir glanced at him. “Oh,” he said in a tone that carried a good deal of weight. “Luincir.”
“Who?” Snaga asked.
Elrohir gave her a mischievous grin. “Only the most willowy and swoony of male Elves imaginable,” he whispered, “and one that Elladan and I greatly enjoy teasing!”
Snaga grinned back. Elrohir’s enthusiasm was contagious – she could do nothing else. “Did Arwen help?” she asked.
“Oh, yes, especially when he decided that he was in love with her!”
She made the mistake of laughing while drinking, and then snorted, choked, got pounded on the back by Elrohir, and was subjected to various scornful glances from well-dressed Elven women throughout the rest of the feast.
Altogether, not an unsatisfactory first night, she thought drowsily as she climbed into bed that night.