Starry Twilight – Chapter 7 – A Grey-eyed Stranger
I apologize, but for a little while things are going to get rather complicated. I am going to try to make this stand alone, but I may decide its not possible without getting too repetitive, so I would suggest you read Heart of Earth, Heart of Stone, at the very least starting at Chapter Twelve. (Which will be submitted some time soon) I am sorry for any inconvenience.
Elladan waited, listening intently, until the last sounds of the orcs faded into the bright light of day. He was fairly certain more would remain, for even the Uruks of Ceriman would not voluntarily remain in the light of the sun. But since he was now sure there was again a driving force behind them, he could not be certain. The only thing to do was to go and see.
He looked up to see both Tinel and Elrohir watching him expectantly. His brother was no longer clinging to Tinel’s hand, a fact which he noted with relief.
“Shall we go Elrohir?” he asked, swiftly standing, “I believe we should split up, each examining a separate area of the valley.”
“Shall we go Elrohir?” Tinel repeated incredulously, leaping to her feet, “Surely you don’t expect me to remain here!”
“There may be Uruks still lurking about,” Elladan began, “It will be dangerous.”
“I am quite able to take care of myself, thank you!” Tinel said derisively. “I shall participate in the search.”
The two brothers shared a glance, silently communicating in a way which Tinel ordinarily admired, but which now infuriated her.
“I cannot believe you two!” she cried, “How often in the last century have I joined you in hunting orcs? And now you think I shall be don in by a few stragglers? How often must I prove myself?”
“Its not that,” Elrohir said softly, “We know they must be guided again by some force, and orcs led are much different from orcs wandering aimlessly.”
Tinel merely glared at him.
“But you are right,” Elladan rushed to say, “We shouldn’t let our care for you make us overly protective. Just promise us that if you find any orcs you will not engage them, but instead come to find us.”
Tinel smiled brightly, “I shan’t do anything foolish, I promise.”
This was not what Elladan had meant, but he knew that he really had no way of keeping her here, so such a promise was actually more than he had hoped for.
“I’ll take the east of the valley.” Elrohir volunteered.
“And I’ll take the mountainside,” Elladan added, smiling to himself.
“Oooooo!” Tinel growled, angry at the trick they had played her. They had left her the West, by the Ford, the place least likely to have any orcs, or indeed anything of interest. To make matters worse, the look the brother’s now exchanged was entirely too smug.
A heart broken from grief is one of the dangers that Elves face, being one of the only ways they can pass from this life. Twice in the past Elrohir had felt himself in danger of succumbing to this fate. The pain in his heart had been so great that he thought it would break.
He was very attached to his mother, and had never, before or since, known such fury as when she had been taken by the orcs, nor such grief as when they found her broken body, and they had feared she would die. The image was still burned into his mind, the bruises staining her skin, and the blood soaking her tattered clothing. But worst of all was the expression in her eyes when they had finally been able to wake her. Luckily his father was able to save her, though her spirit was so damaged she could no longer stand to remain in Middle-earth. He hoped that she had been able to find peace in Valinor, that she had not departed from them to no purpose.
The second occasion was upon the disappearance of his sister, Arwen. Right up until they received the news he had hoped to be able to convince her to abandon this plan of leaving her immortality behind. But she remained firm. It was still difficult for him to accept that she was gone. It did not help that he had been unable to say good-bye to her. They had traveled to Gondor that last time, to find Elessar dead, and ARwen gone, no one knew where.
He still did not know where her body lay, and he stubbornly clung to the hope that she had perhaps chosen to accompany the Mirkwood Prince to Valinor.
But now he felt that extreme grief again, or perhaps it was more a reopening of his old wounds. HE found not a single living thing within Imladris, though the foul stench of orc presence filled the air. He soon discovered why when he found several bunches of dead orcs, and orc blood staining the white marble in many places.
There was not a single room which had not been ransacked. The stables still burned, though enough trace of the power of the elves remained that it did not spread to the forest.
At the moment Elrohir was kneeling in his own room, turning what remained of the shredded pages of the Lay of Beren and Luthien, Arwen’s favorite book, which she had given to Elrohir just after her wedding, hoping to help him understand her decision to die with her Estel. It had not succeeded, he still did not understand, he did not understand Luthien’s decision, nor Elros’s. But still, it hurt to have lost something which was so dear to her.
Perhaps it was time to leave. He had clung to his home for so long, hoping against hope that Arwen would realize her folly, and agree to come with them. And then there was the fact that only here did he have any access to the places where they had grown up, where they had grown so close. But now that was gone. The gardens would never be the same again, now that orc blood had poisoned their roots, and everything else was in ruins. Could he stand to remain with this constant symbol of all he had lost?
He quietly closed the book, and slipped it into his tunic. Swiftly he rose, and went to find Elladan.
Elladan knelt and touched the splotches on the ground. More orc blood. It really was incredible how they had survived as a race, they took so much delight in killing each other. But he found no sign that any had remained behind.
His brother was looking for him, so he strode back down the mountainside. Elrohir’s face was completely devoid of its usual buoyancy, and Elladan cursed his folly in not searching the city himself, and having Elrohir search the mountainside.
“We cannot remain here,” Elrohir said aloud, voicing the thought they had already shared, “Not now.”
Elladan’s heart leapt, was Elrohir at last ready to depart into the West? But he did not ask, not yet. The pain in his brother’s soul was still too great.
“We shall see,” he said, laying a comforting hand on his younger brother’s shoulder. “I can find nothing to cause further concern here, shall we go retrieve Tinel?”
A nod was all the response he got, which caused Elladan no little concern. But then Elrohir forced a grin, “She will be so disappointed she doesn’t get to fight any orcs today.”
“Indeed,” Elladan agree, clapping his brother on the back before together they descended back into the valley.
Elrohir led the way, beginning to skirt around the city, but they both stopped, and turned to look at the ruins. There were voices coming from what had been the Hall of Fire, but they were not the harsh guttural tones of orcs.
Immediately they crossed to the gateway, and hurried through the crumbled hallways to the Hall. As they approached, they recognized the voice, and again stopped in surprise, exchanging a glance before hurrying forward again. They had thought Legolas had sailed into the West. How came he to be here now?
He was saying, “”Though it was not too long ago, the fires are still smouldering, and we can find no bodies, or even any trace of anyone being killed save orcs. Which of course does not mean that none fell, but I would continue to hope.”
Grinning widely Elrohir went first through the archway, calling out, “Of course you should continue to hope, my friend!”
Ordinarily Tinel would be doing her best to be silent. But she was very certain that there would be no danger here. The nearest people to the West were the hobbits, and it was certain that there would be no danger from that direction. So rather than an attempt at silence, she fairly stalked towards the Ford. She would do her duty by checking the land from Rivendell to the Ford, and then she would return to berate Elladan and Elrohir. Hopefully they wouldn’t encounter any orcs, for she did not think she could bear to be left out of any adventure.
But her anger swiftly faded, as it always did, and rather than going swiftly to the Ford, she began to meander about, admiring the play of the sun in the trees, listening to the birds who were beginning again to sing, and merely enjoying the day. What if their home was lost. It was a sorrowful thing, to be sure, but they still lived, wood and stone could be rebuilt, and there were other places to go if the brothers did not wish to remain. She was sad, but her optimistic nature won out, and she began to whistle for a moment, mimicking the birds before an unusual sound jerked her out of her reverie.
Ordinarily it would not strike her as unusual, for it was merely the sound of horses and their riders, but on this day, with recent events, it immediately put her on her guard. She located the source of the sound as the Ford. Whoever they were, they were crossing it at this very moment. There was a splash as the first moved into the water, walked halfway across, and then turned back. There was a murmur of voices, and someone dismounted, and there was a clatter of hooves as the horse that remained on the shore galloped away. How strange. Tinel hesitated a moment, then decided to circle around to the river, and come upon them from behind. She would be careful not to be seen or heard, and once she identified the strangers, she would then decide what to do.
“Now you are not at all what I expected,” a startled voice nearly caused Tinel to trip.
Tinel whirled about in the light way that only Elves could manage, snatching an arrow from her quiver, and drawing the fletchings to kiss her cheek in the space of a breath. A little away from the base of a tree stood a human lady of average height, her long dark hair caught up in a loose braid.
“Who are you?” Tinel demanded, “What are you doing here? How did you get so close without me hearing?” She could have kicked herself for that last question, which so clearly revealed her surprise and dismay at being taken so unawares. Why, this girl could have killed her and she’d never have known.
“There’s no need, I think, for you to draw that bow. I have no intention of attacking you,” the lady said calmly. Tinel was taken aback by the lady’s composure. Not many could remain so cooly collected when faced with a drawn bow, especially when an Elf was at the other end. The stranger sighed, “My name is Jaessa, I assure you that we came with no intention of harm, rather we wished to request aid of the people of Imladris.” She paused, “I assume you are one of those?”
“Imladris is no more. Those filthy orcs ransacked it no more than a sennight ago.” At last Tinel lowered her bow. “You say we, where are your companions?”
The lady, Jaessa, looked at her silently for a moment. “Do you think you might come down? It would be much more comfortable to talk.”
Tinel could not have explained it to anyone, even herself, but at that moment she felt sudden liking for this strangely pragmatic human. She knew that somehow they were destined to be good friends. She returned the arrow to her quiver, and the bow was swiftly slung over her shoulder,
“I do beg your pardon Jaessa, it was very rude of me, I have been overly wary of late, ever since the Orcs started gathering again in the mountains. And I have not yet introduced myself, my name is Tinel. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, and I hope you will forgive my less than hospitable welcome.” Tinel flashed her friendliest smile, hoping sincerely that her wish would be granted.
“There is no forgiveness needed,” Jaessa said, smiling quietly in her turn, and Tinel knew that her desire for friendship was returned. “I understand completely needing to be wary of strangers. Now, as to my companions, I believe they are the ones that you were watching cross the Ford.”
“The Ford?” Tinel could not hide her surprise. It was her biggest failing, she could not seem to develop the proper Elvish reserve, every nuance of her emotions was revealed on her face, and she knew it. “I haven’t been anywhere near there yet!”
“Watching, listening,” Jaessa said, “You were observing them were you not? Or at least, moving to be in a position to do so.”
Tinel tilted her head to the side, “How did you approach without my hearing you? You are not Elvish, yet I heard not a sound.”
“Alas, though I am sure you would not betray my secret, I fear I do not know you well enough yet to reveal all.” Tinel was immediately sorry for her question at the way Jaessa seemed to withdraw into herself, though she was still smiling.
“Sorry, my wretched tongue. Elladan and Elrohir are continually mocking me for it,” Tinel laid a hand on Jaessa’s arm, her eyes pleading forgiveness. She was rewarded by the softening in Jaessa’s silvery eyes, though of course she remained as composed as always. Tinel found herself wondering what shook the lady’s placidity.
“Elladan and Elrohir?” Jaessa said now, “I believe it is they whom we were seeking.”
“Oh! Well, let me take you to them!” Tinel said, immediately turning to lead the way up the hill. “When we detected the orcs coming, and knew we weren’t enough to stay them, we took refuge in a secret cavern behind the waterfalls. Oh, and you might wish to keep an eye out for your companion’s horse, they let it go. I can `t imagine why.” She turned to look at her companion, who had managed to keep up with the Elvish lady’s long strides amazingly well considering the skirts hampering her stride.
“I get the impression that you are rather unusual as far as Elves go,” Jaessa said laughing. “Not that my experience of Elves in this world is extremely large, but Legolas and Haldir, my companions, appear much more reserved.”
“Haldir!” Tinel cried in surprised delight, “Haldir is here, and Prince Legolas!? But they both went to Valinor! And yes, I am rather . . . flighty is what Elrohir calls me, though I don’t know where he has room to talk. Ah, here we are!”
They had arrived at the foot of a large cascading waterfall. Tinel turned again to her companion, wishing to observe the effect of the sight. She was quite shocked to see tears starting at the corners of the lady’s eyes, making their greyness seem even more as silver.
“Why what’s the matter?” she cried.
“It is nothing but a bit of nostalgia,” Jaessa said, dashing away her tears with the back of her hand, then she laughed waterily, “My sister has a passion for waterfalls, and I miss her, that’s all.”
“It must be nice having a sister,” Tinel said slowly; she herself was an only child.
“Yes,” was all the reply she got. This was curious, obviously there was a great deal of story here, one that might take some ferreting.
As she was not getting any more information at the moment Tinel called up to the cavern that lay hid behind the waterfall. “Elladan! Elrohir! Come down!”
“Wrong direction love!” a light hearted voice called. “We’re more down than you are!”
Tinel knew from the words that it was Elrohir who called up, and she whirled around joyfully to see the two brothers striding up the hill accompanied by Jaessa’s companions, and a strange man Tinel did not know. Haldir strode next to the other Elf that must be Legolas, who led the horse, and . . . a goat? The Dwarf was sitting on the horse holding a baby. What a strange menagerie to be sure!