Starry Twilight – Chapter Three – The sun sets twice.
Elrohir glanced back at the diminutive lady riding beside his grandfather. His eyes glowed appreciatively as he turned to his brother.
“What do you think brother? Is she not the most delightful creature?” he asked enthusiastically. “What luck we decided to come this way rather than through the Gap. We might never have discovered her!”
“You forget,” Elladan said dryly, “She is to accompany Grandmother to Valinor.”
“Unless I am much mistaken,” Galadriel interjected, “My lord is speaking to her on that very thing. She has shown much reluctance to leave these lands at this time.”
“You see!” Elrohir crowed, “I knew we were kindred spirits! She will stay, and we will soon be the closest of friends.”
“Only friends?” Elladan asked, an odd note in his voice that Elrohir took to be teasing.
“Well, as to that,” he responded, his ready grin showing his teeth, “To all intents and purposes we have just met. Who can say what the future may hold?” He whirled his mount around, and called to Tinel as he circled back, “Feadae is restless at this sedate pace, what say you to a race, my lady Shining Star?”
“In a side-saddle my lord?” Tinel asked, her eyes wide, “I shouldn’t dream of doing anything so indecorous.”
Elrohir pulled up in shock. Indecorous? Surely he couldn’t have been that mistaken in her?
That was his last thought before the sorrel mare, with her lady perched low on her back, flashed by with only a “Noro lim, Culumalda, noro lim!” and the chase was on.
Elrohir had spoken true, Feadae did not like the slow pace, being used to his master’s love of speed, so the pair was soon hot on the trail of the mettlesome mare and her dainty lady. They soon caught them up, but Elrohir kept his dark stallion in check, not passing the lady, staying by her shoulder.
“What will be our mark?” he called out with his powerful voice.
“The stars!” Tinel cried out in return, exhilarated with the way Culumalda’s feet seemed to fly. It had been a long time since she had been able to allow the mare her head. There had been the war, and then Arwen’s wedding, and then it had seemed that with her friend so permanently rifted from her, her heart had been unable to fly. Her heart went out with gratitude to Elrohir for awakening the gamine spirit within her again.
“To Twilight it is!” Elrohir agreed, urging Feadae ahead of the ladies, who responded, to his delight, with even greater speed. Neck and neck they rode along the road, slowing only when they sensed their mounts could no longer keep the pace. They walked a moment to allow both themselves and their mounts to catch their breath.
“Truly your Spirit of the Shadows is justly named!” Tinel cried as she caught her breath. “For he is as fleet as a shadow racing from the sun.”
“But we do not run from the sun, but to it,” Elrohir said, and pointed to the fiery sunset which lay before them, casting the mountains about them with a rosy hue. “There is a point just ahead where you can see down into the valley, though the valley is still far away. Shall we try to reach that crest before the sun wholly disappears?” he asked, “Then we may see it set twice in one evening!”
“Is it possible?” Tinel asked, her eyes sparkling with delight at the thought.
“We shall see!” Elrohir cried, before he sped away, his black Feadae appearing the shadow for which he was named in the fading light.
“Noro lim Culumalda!” Tinel cried, and followed in hot pursuit. The thick trees of the canyon path lay dense on either side, and an occasional tendril that had thrust itself across the path whipped at Tinel’s shoulder. The fiery light of the setting sun slowly faded into the grey twilight that lasted so long in the mountains. All was silent save for the pounding of the two fleet-footed horses.
The ground became more uneven, and Tinel slackened her pace, picking her way more carefully over the sharp stones. She did not wish to lame Culumalda. Abruptly she became aware that she could not hear Elrohir. The darkness deepened around her as the sun slipped even farther below the horizon. They probably would not make it in time to see it set on the valley’s horizon, but that was the least of Tinel’s worries at the moment. Where was Elrohir? If he had stopped to wait for her surely she would have come upon him by now.
“Elrohir?” she called hesitantly into the shadowy way before her. “Elrohir where are you?”
Her voice sounded dead in the ever thickening forest. Her mind began to recall all the tales she had heard of these mountains, and the Orcs that roamed them. Don’t be silly! she admonished herself, Arwen’s Estel has seen to it that the roads at least are safe, and he has gone far in driving the Orcs away for good. There is no need to fear. But these assurances did not quell her beating heart. The blood pounded loudly in her ears, driving away the sound even of the wind in the branches above. Thus she missed the tell-tale snap of the branches above her head. Had she heard this she would not have been caught unawares, which was a very good thing for Elrohir.
As it was she let out a shrill scream as she felt herself lifted from her saddle, and up onto a thick oak branch. Elrohir swung himself up from where he hung by his knees, to a sitting position beside her.
“Elrohir!” she shrieked again through her relieved laughter, and swatted his arm, while she steadied herself with her other hand. In the growing darkness she could just see the gleam of his teeth as he grinned at her again.
“I thought you wanted to see the sunset again,” he said, standing on the slender branch, and extending a hand to help her rise as well. “I didn’t think we’d make it to the crest in time, so I thought we’d try from here.”
Tinel looked up, this tree stood tall above the rest, and on the other branches could still be seen the red gold glow of the setting sun. She glanced back to grin at Elrohir, and said, “Don’t look!” Then she proceeded to the bole of the tree, to climb, gracefully despite her long skirts, up the tree. Elrohir, not hindered by a dress, reached up where he was, and vaulted easily to the next branch, and on up. In the higher, and more precarious places, he reached down to help Tinel up.
At last they reached a place where the branches parted so that they could see through the turning leaves. There was little standing room, so Elrohir wrapped his arm loosely about Tinel’s shoulders, and her arm went naturally around his waist. They looked to the great vee made by the mountains on either side. Through this, far into the west could be seen the horizon.
Tinel caught her breath in wonder. The only time she had ever seen the sunset was as it sank slowly behind the great Misty Mountains, on rare occasions making brilliant colors. This was a sight unlike any she had ever beheld. The clouds seemed to be ablaze with brilliant fire, and streams of light reached out to Tinel, seeking to hold her to them and never let her go. Almost they made her wish to accompany them, almost made her regret her decision not to go into the West.
“That was magnificent,” she said finally, as the last of the reds and oranges faded into the yellow and grey of twilight.
“Its even better from Imladris,” Elrohir said quietly, half to himself.
Tinel smiled, “You really love your home don’t you?”
“Yes, to me there is nowhere better, and nothing more beautiful than the forest glades down in the valley. There is one particular place, with a waterfall, and behind the waterfall is a cave. It is my place, mine and Elladan and Arwen’s. We would go there whenever we had need to hide.” He looked down at her, realizing with surprise how small she was. If they were standing on level ground she would not come up past his chest.
“I can’t think why you would have cause to hide,” Tinel said teasingly, looking up to meet his gaze. In the darkening twilight her eyes were twin pools of shadow, teasing his senses with their deepness.
“Tinel,” Elrohir said abruptly, “When we reach Imladris I want to show you my cave.” He held his breath for a moment, though he was not entirely certain why. He had never invited anyone aside from his brother and sister to view his secret place.
“I would love it,” Tinel said, her smile widening. There came a nicker from down below. Culumalda was waiting impatiently for her mistress to return. “Where is Feadae?” Tinel asked curiously.
“Waiting a little ahead. Here, I’ll help you down,” Elrohir replied.
“I made it up, I can make it back,” Tinel said indignantly. “Its not as though I were like Lady Aquaranel. She couldn’t climb a tree without crying out that the bark scratched her lily white hands.” As she spoke she raised the pitch of her voice, and imitated that lady’s affected manner, and started her descent.
“You capture Aquaranel perfectly,” Elrohir laughed.
“Well, I had to live with her for most of my life,” Tinel said disgustedly, sitting carefully on the lowest branch, and, gathering her skirt around her legs, she pushed off and jumped to the ground. She brushed some flakes of bark from her dress, and looked up expectantly for Elrohir to follow. He landed softly behind her, having walked the branch over her head. She whirled around to forestall any teasing he might attempt when her back was turned.
“Shall we continue on?” he asked. “I suppose we ought not go too much further ahead of the group. We might walk under the stars until they catch us up.” He offered her his arm, which she took, laughing up at him.
“I should be delighted My Lord,” she retorted. Elrohir grimaced.
“Why will you insist on continuing that!?” he complained.
“Because it annoys you so,” her voice was as sweet as honey.
“You really are worse than Arwen,” he laughed in return.
“Finally some one realizes it!” Tinel laughed, “I was beginning to think that no one had remembered my reputation while we were growing up. I feared I was about to sink into oblivion.”
They came upon Feadae, who fell into step with the mare, who was following the two Elves slowly. They were both too well trained to wander off on their own, but would follow their master and mistress to death if it were required of them.
Tinel looked up, they were higher in the mountains now, and the trees thinner, so she could see the sky clearly. She gasped in awe.
“I have never seen the stars so clear!” she cried. “Is it because we are nearer to them?”
“Yes. There is less sky between us and them. If you listen carefully you can hear their singing.” If Tinel had looked at him at that moment she would have caught the mischief in his eyes, but she did not, so she obeyed, and listened intently.
As though from a great distance she heard the beginnings of a haunting worshipful melody. At first it was strange and mysterious, but soon she began to recognize the notes. The words flowed through her mind, and almost without conscious thought she began to sing along. It was one of the many hymns of praise to Elbereth.
“A Elbereth Gilthoniel,
silivren penna miriel
o menel aglar elenath!
Na-chaered palan diriel
o gladhremmin ennorath,
Fanuilos, le linnathon
nef aear, si nef aearon!“
As the song progressed, Elrohir joined his strong tenor to hers, and the music twined about them both. It seemed to Tinel that many voices joined in with theirs, and together they soared among the stars.
As the last words faded away Tinel became aware that it was not the voices of the stars she heard, but the voices of the company from Lothlorien. But so caught up was she in the music that she had not the heart to berate Elrohir.
The company neared, and Elrohir lifted Tinel back into her saddle, his eyes dancing with fond laughter. For a moment Tinel was poised in space, her feet off the ground, and not yet seated in her saddle, only the warmth of Elrohir’s hands on her waist kept her in contact with reality. She met his eyes for a moment, before he moved to mount his own horse again. As they took their places with the company, Tinel was filled with a strange feeling of confusion.