The weeks passed in agonizingly slow succession. Every week a new dispatch would come from Gandalf: “No progress made with search. Dissention breeding; Elladan and Elrohir quelled it effectively. Do not know if we can continue much longer.” Sometimes there would be notes sent in the dispatch by homesick Elves: “Mordin sends his love to Ninien.” Less frequently, Elrond’s sons would put in a note. Snaga always listened carefully whenever they did, hoping for some hint that Elrohir might possibly feel…what? Something akin to what she felt? No matter how closely she listened when Elrond read aloud the dispatches, trying her hardest to read obscure meanings into Elrohir’s words, she could make of them nothing more than a cousinly affection.
There was one dispatch that caused a chilly havoc in Elrond’s household. For the first time, Aragorn had requested to be allowed to add something to Gandalf’s dispatch, and for all his diplomatic wording – how he missed being in Rivendell and wished he could see the house of Elrond again – Snaga knew that his message was meant for Arwen. Arwen could read between the lines of his almost cool sentence, and try as she might, she could not keep her face from showing her joy. Elrond saw it too, and stopped reading abruptly, rolling up the dispatch and tucking it into his belt.
For three days after that dispatch came, Arwen and Elrond were as cold to each other as they could civilly be. Snaga lived in an awkward limbo between the two of them until Elrond finally apologized to Arwen for overreacting. She accepted his apology with one of her own, and life was back to normal in Imladris.
And then, one crisp autumn day when the first of the emerald-green leaves of the trees was starting to turn gold at the edges, came the dispatch that sent everyone living in Rivendell into spasms of both joy and fear. It was surprisingly brief, and Gandalf’s hand was as stilted as his words. “We are coming back.”
Nothing more, and yet the four words filled Snaga with apprehension. They had not found Sauron, but she had not truly expected that they would. But that meant that he was still somewhere, in an unknown location, licking his wounds over his defeat at Dol Guldur, the loss of his magically gifted consort, and the revelation of his existence. The thought of Sauron at large was not one to make Snaga happy. And yet…and yet…Elrohir was coming home! She would see him again, and just maybe, there might be something more in his heart for her. May it please the Valar to let it be so…
The company rode through the gates of Rivendell in less pride than they had gone forth in, but with much more rejoicing. Wives rushed out to the gates to embrace their still-mounted husbands, and little children stretched out their hands to “Brother!” or “Father!” Elladan leaped from his horse and ran to Elrond, while Elrohir made a beeline for Arwen, catching her by the waist and swinging her into the air, just as Snaga had seen him do the day she met him. She also saw Aragorn approach and catch Arwen’s eyes, and Elrohir relinquished his sister to the Man, turning instead to Snaga.
“Welcome home,” she said, giving him her hands.
Elrohir smiled his dazzling smile. “Thank you, Snaga,” he replied, pulling her into an embrace. Snaga held him close to her, setting her face on his shoulder. You have come back to me. Then he pulled away, squeezed her hands, and threw his arms around Elrond.
Elrond held a feast that night, and it seemed to Snaga that she had never seen so many joyous faces in her life. Miraculously, no one had fallen to an Orc’s sword, and so there was no note of sadness to the celebration, only a faint tinge of foreboding doom that everyone studiously kept out of their minds. Everyone who had left Rivendell to search for Sauron’s new hiding place was seated at the head of the great table, Gandalf included. The wizard had not changed out of his gray robes, but he was more relaxed than Snaga had ever seen him before. Aragorn too sat at the head of the table, and he and Arwen valiantly tried to not stare at each other all night. Not all of the Elves who had left Rivendell were married or betrothed, and quite a few Elven maidens who had not noticed them before were now starting to look at Rivendell’s new heroes in a different light. Snaga would have found it quite amusing, had not one of those maidens chosen Elrohir to gaze meltingly at. She glared at the girl, hoping to embarrass her into looking away, but she didn’t even notice Snaga. Then, to make matters worse, Elrohir saw the girl looking at him and returned her glance with a mischievous smile. Snaga began to feel quite heartsick, and finally excused herself, slipping from the banquet hall and out onto the terrace.
She breathed in the cool night air, clung to the balcony to steady herself, and closed her eyes. In the morning she was going to find out who that girl was and –
No. No, that was stupid. Why should she blame someone for liking the same things she liked? The same person she loved…
Why had he smiled at her? Had he absolutely needed to smile at her? Snaga lowered her head into her hands. The smile was what had really done it for her. The girl probably meant absolutely nothing to him, and yet he’d given her one of his brilliant smiles, one that Snaga would have loved to be on the receiving end of.
She heard footsteps behind her. Hardly daring to hope that it was Elrohir, she turned around, and was sadly disappointed. Luincir, the Elf who had stared at her on the night of her arrival in Rivendell, was standing on the terrace with her, and he was staring at her again with huge, stupid eyes. “Hello,” Snaga muttered. “Goodbye.” She made for the banquet hall again, but Luincir stood in her way.
“Are you sad?” he asked inanely, his eyes baby-wide.
His childish voice irked Snaga. “No,” she said sarcastically. “No, I’m actually having a wonderful time by myself, and I think I’ll go back in there now.” This time she managed to brush by him and gain reentrance to the banquet hall. Elrohir was not looking at the girl anymore, she noticed. Even so, she cried quietly into her pillow and wondered how things would have turned out had Elrohir and not Luincir accosted her on the terrace.
“I’ve decided something, Snaga,” announced Arwen three days later.
Snaga looked up in surprise. Her cousin loved to come bounding into her rooms at any time, knowing she was more than welcome, but it always caught Snaga off-guard when Arwen did it. “What have you decided?” she asked.
Arwen smiled and flopped down on the bed next to Snaga. “That’s the dress you made for yourself, isn’t it?” she asked, nodding at Snaga’s gown.
“It is,” Snaga affirmed. “Do you like it?” She smoothed out the pale yellow folds of the skirt. She had thought that the dress she had started in Lothlorien as sewing practice had turned out worlds better than she had expected, but she knew she might be slightly biased.
“I love it!” came Arwen’s heartwarmingly enthusiastic approval. “Could you make me one to the same pattern?”
Snaga had hoped that the prospect of another lengthy sewing project would not loom onto her horizon for perhaps the rest of her life, but faced with Arwen’s glowing face, she quickly agreed, “Of course I will!” and hugged her. “But that wasn’t what you came to tell me, was it?”
“No,” Arwen admitted. “No, I think you’ll actually like what I came to say.”
“I like doing things for you!” Snaga protested.
“But not making a whole new dress!” Arwen grinned.
“All right. You win. Now tell me!”
Arwen’s smile grew wider. “I’ve been thinking it over, and you can’t go through the rest of your life with an Elvish honorific and a name in Black Speech.” Snaga sighed – she had been thinking the same thing during the few moments in her day when she was neither busy nor worrying about Elrohir. “So what I think you need to do is to pick a new name!”
Snaga’s jaw fell open. “I – I can do that?”
“Of course you can!” Arwen assured her. “We’re not going to force you to call yourself `Slave’ all your life!”
Snaga blinked hard. She had wished, of course, that she could change her name to something more Elvish, but she hadn’t known how to broach the subject or how a new name could be picked. Her throat closed up. She looked over at Arwen with blurring vision. “Thank you,” she whispered. Then, coughing back her tears, she repeated, “Thank you!” much more enthusiastically, with a sound somewhere between a laugh and a sob.
Arwen smiled gently and opened her arms. Snaga reached out and clung to Arwen until she had control of herself again. “So what do you think?” Arwen asked.
“Oh, I will!” Snaga cried. “I will! I just…” She paused. “Can my name…mean something?”
“Of course! Most Elvish names do. Take mine, for instance – it means `royal maiden.'” Arwen’s face softened. “Pick a name that means something important, a name you’d be willing to live with for the rest of your life.” With a grin slipping onto her face, she added, “You do have a luxury, in picking your own name, that many of us are not given!” That sent them both off into giggles.
When their laughing had finally died away, Snaga got up and slipped behind the dressing screen. “What are you doing?” Arwen asked.
“If I’m going to make you a dress, I have to know your size so I can modify my patterns!” Snaga answered. The yellow dress appeared over the top of the screen. “Here. Try it on so I have some idea of your size.” She paused a moment, then added, “And pass me my robe, would you?”
“You’re becoming too methodical for my comfort,” Arwen teased as she tossed Snaga’s robe over the screen.
“Blame yourself for bringing me here,” Snaga retorted, emerging from behind the screen. “I could, after all, have spent a blissful life being whipped by foul Orcs every day in the dungeons of Dol Guldur!”
It was quite a while before the two of them recovered from their laughter enough to put on the dress or appraise what changes needed to be made.