‘An Elven-maid there was of old,
A shining star by day:
Her mantle white was hemmed with gold,
Her shoes of silver-grey.
A star was bound upon her brows,
A light was on her hair
As sun upon the golden boughs
In Lorien the fair…’
Ivrieniel awoke in confusion again, the strange dreams returning to her once more. Perhaps dreams was not the best word to describe them, as Ivriniel found them far too real to be dreams – it was if thoughts and images were being projected into her head by some eldritch power. She shook away such bizarre ideas and fell back down into the comforting swathes of her bed sheets, but after some time found to her frustration that she could no longer sleep so easily, and sighing rose from her rest and walked slowly to her window, holding her pale arms together against the creeping chill.
All was silent in the port-city of Dol Amroth, except for the remedial rhythm of the waves rushing in from the Bay of Belfalas onto the rocks and climbing up and down the beaches. From her high vantage point in the inner citadel she could see a few shapes on the walls below, mirroring the gleam of the bright stars above with flaming brands, for as the days darkened, hastening into the war that many among the wise and lored foresaw mustering like a storm on the brink of the horizon, a vigilant watch was maintained – especially against the hated and feared Corsairs of Umbar, whose attacks were ever reckless and unlooked-for; and the naval forces of Dol Amroth, Pelargir and the coastal fiefs could only be stretched in their watchfulness so much. Out in the harbour, Ivriniel could descry a single large vessel, very small from such a distance, yet she knew it was a mighty ship of power and venerability, proudly displaying the colours of the white swan against the blue even in the twilight of the deep night.
The attention of Ivriniel was shaken from the window when she heard footsteps drawing closer towards her door from the corridors outside, and she wondered why anyone would be up at such an hour, other than if they were on duty or granted too many dreams to sleep. As the echoing steps passed by her door, she gingerly opened it a fraction to see who walked in the moonlit hours.
‘I believe it is far too late an hour for any ladies of the house to be stirring, do you not agree, Ivriniel?’
She embarrassedly closed the door instinctively but then smiled wearily and fully opened it to see her father’s younger brother, Gilant.
‘I do agree, uncle, but dreams are stopping me from doing so.’
‘Ah, an overactive imagination? That is quite a good thing, you know, it shows you have kept some of your childhood with you still, and once you let go of something, it is often quite hard to find again.’
‘But why are you awake also, Gilant?’ asked Ivriniel, assuredly leaning upon her doorframe.
‘I am afraid I was in the Prince’s library reading some old records and lore and overlooked how late it had become.’
‘Perhaps then the reasons we are still both awake are not so different, for it seems our imaginations are as overactive as one another!’
‘Indeed, yes! But I do have to mind that my enjoyment of knowledge does not turn me into a bookish old man; I am still only eight years older than you after all, and the sea alone will not bar the Corsairs from Gondor, or us.’
‘Yes, but let us not speak of such evils at so late an hour. Would you like to come in for a short while? I imagine if both our imaginations are still overactive they can act together, and I could use the company, and perhaps a little advice.’
‘Why, of course, Ivriniel,’ replied Gilant. ‘It would be my pleasure to join you.’
‘Thank you, uncle. Please, take a seat,’ suggested Ivriniel as Gilant passed through her doorway. He found a reasonable spot on an old unembellished wooden chair by the dresser, whilst Ivriniel casually sat down upon her bed as the moon cast pale blue light through the window into the chamber.
‘Gilant, the dreams I have been speaking of, the ones keeping me awake,’ started Ivriniel, now a little more serious and concerned, ‘they have not been going away, but keep continuing to increase. I get the feeling that perhaps they are something more than just dreams?’
Gilant moved backwards and then forwards in his chair, slowly rubbing his hands together. ‘This may sound curious, Ivriniel, but remember that the legends tell that both Elven and Numenorean blood runs true through our family. Would it not be too extraordinary to think that some few of us have possessed some of their abilities too, such as foresight?’
‘Yes, I have considered it, uncle; but these dreams do not seem like prophecies, more like that they are being played out in the present, before my very eyes.’
‘I see. Very curious indeed. May I ask what occurs in the dreams?’
Ivriniel tucked into herself and thought clear and hard about all that she had witnessed. ‘It starts with the crashing of wave upon rock. I see the shores of Belfalas, but there are no men upon the shores, but Elves, and the legend of Amroth and Nimrodel happens before my very eyes, but even as it does I hear the voice of a woman, sounding very ancient but young at the same time, reciting the song of the two lovers, and as she sings she shows me both the lands of my home here and of a strange wood, where the trees grow taller than towers and the leaves dazzle in hues of gold. And then I see the face of the speaker, and I see that she is an Elf, and I wake up. For she is both fair and terrible to behold – perilous, one might say.’
Gilant continued to think at this, before coming up short, his face exclaimed as if in sudden understanding. ‘You say you speak of Amroth and a golden wood in this dream? Well, it is told that Amroth was once the King of the Elvish abode of Lothlorien, which I deem is what you see in your dream. And if it is not Nimrodel who speaks to you, then it must be the Lady of that wood.’
‘Who is she, uncle? And why Lothlorien – men say that place is dangerous to walk in these days.’
‘If the power of the Elves still grows there,’ replied Gilant, ‘then there should be nothing to fear there, unless you are a servant of the enemy. Do not believe the common rumours – it is wiser to remember the tales of old wives. As for the Lady of Lothlorien, then if the stories are correct, it is the White Lady, Galadriel, who has court there now, with her husband the Lord Celeborn of Doriath. Both of them are immeasurably old beings from ages when the tides that beat from the Bay of Belfalas were much different, and all the world’s shores were strange. Strange though it might seem, I would not dissuade the theory that she is speaking to you herself.’
Ivriniel was taken aback with such an idea; that so mighty and powerful an Elven Lady would seek to speak to her in her sleep. ‘Thank you very much Gilant,’ she said, moving uneasily to her feet. ‘Though such a truth is very out of the ordinary, perhaps it shall give me peace; yet I shall indeed think upon it.’
‘I am more than glad that I could help you,’ Gilant said, moving from his seat to the chamber door. ‘Now I think it is time we should both attempt to get some rest, for hopefully our imaginations have been quenched by legendary woods and Elven sorceresses!’
‘Yes. Good night, uncle,’ Ivriniel spoke, closing the door slowly behind him before stepping steadily back to her bed, where she immediately fell upon it, but still could not sleep, thinking instead on the portents of her visions.
‘But father, if we think naught of the powers that come with the blood of our ancestors, are we not thinking naught of our own lineage?’
‘Ivriniel, I do not say the sight of Westernesse does not flow in your veins, I only believe that such an undertaking would be far too dangerous, as any right-minded parent would.’
The following night Ivriniel had not slept. For hours she had thought upon the dreams, playing them over and over again in her head like the recurring tide upon the shore. As the first rays of the dawn shone from behind the mountains, she had made her decision; she would trust in the foresight of her heritage and pursue her vision to its source – Lothlorien. Yet she feared persuading her father the Lord Adrahil would be a much more difficult task in itself.
In the throne room of Dol Amroth Ivriniel besought him, and there too was her younger sister, fair Finduilas, and their younger brother and heir of their father, Imrahil. Though the latter stood beside the decision of his sister, Finduilas was not as approving, standing with the word of Adrahil. In front of them all, upon the throne of Dol Amroth sat Prince Angelimar, the grandfather of Ivriniel, though he was silent, his mind fixed in doubt. Ivriniel was now twenty-seven years of age, and in the customs of Dol Amroth should have already began searching, or even settled with, a suitor, yet Ivriniel had steered from that course by hanging to the ghost of her childhood imagination, and Adrahil could only believe that this was another of her naive daydreams.
‘But father, surely if it is her destiny to go to Lorien you should not hinder it?’ Imrahil advised.
‘I fear that your sister has mistaken prophecy for fantasy,’ replied Adrahil to him. ‘I have tolerated her young obsessions long enough – she must take root in the real world.’
‘Maybe it is you who should take root in the real world, father, and understand that there are forces at work beyond the edict of the son of the Prince of Dol Amroth, or the Steward Ecthelion of Gondor himself,’ Ivriniel fierily retorted.
‘Ivriniel, cease to trouble me with your nonsense. I will say no more of this,’ stated Adrahil.
‘Who speaks of nonsense? Let me hear this, for sometimes words that seem like nonsense are wiser than the knowledge of lords and ladies,’ said a cool, gentle voice from behind Ivriniel, and as she turned she saw the slender form of her mother, the Lady Irilde, approaching from the chamber door.
‘There is no knowledge behind these words, my lady,’ said Adrahil to his wife. ‘Just the echoes of childishness that should have long since been lost.’
‘Nothing should be purposefully lost,’ Irilde retorted. ‘Come my daughter, tell me what you seek.’
‘Mother, I believe that the strands of my destiny are being loosed into my dreams, but father will not let me grasp them,’ said Ivriniel. ‘I believe the Lady Galadriel is beckoning me to her, that my path leads into the woods of Lothlorien.’
Irilde did not seem the least surprised, though she did muse upon her eldest daughter’s words. ‘Galadriel – that is a name that has not been spoken in Gondor for many years. But I see no reason why one of such a wise race would wish you harm, if her existence is more than legend. If you believe this to be your calling, Ivriniel, then I shall support you, for I believe in the sight of your lineage, and more than anything, I believe in you.’
‘Irilde, how can such words be your verdict?’ asked the confounded Adrahil. ‘To allow our daughter to wander into doubt and danger?’
‘My Lord – my beloved; doubt and danger does not cloud Ivriniel’s path, only yours. I would grant her to go to Lothlorien, if not for her own satisfaction, then for yours. The road is less dangerous than you comprehend – all that stands between Dol Amroth and Lorien are the southern fiefs and the land of Rohan, whose people still call us their friends. And with the attacks of the Corsairs increasing and the Orcs of the White Mountains stirring, the sanctuary of the Elves would surely be a safer haven than these walls can provide. And surely the Elves will not turn her aside – she is a high lady of Elven blood, however minor, whose family was founded in the name of their past King Amroth. Gondor speaks ill of Lothlorien in such dark days, but it is only mistrust weaved by time and anxiety of war. Surely such reason can permeate your disapproval?’
Adrahil slumped into himself in thought for some minutes before he gave his verdict. ‘It is true you are no longer a child, Ivriniel, and so I must trust in your word as much as I must trust in your mother’s. I shall give you leave to seek your destiny in Lothlorien, but in return I ask of you only three things. Firstly, the people shall be told that the reason for your departure is that you will be an embassy for Dol Amroth in seeking alliance. Secondly, you shall be assisted in your journey by a guard, at least to the borders of Rohan and at most to the trees of Lorien itself. And thirdly, you must return to Dol Amroth, for you still have family who love you here, and a responsibility to the city and its people. That is, if my father the Prince would allow this verdict?’
The silent and thoughtful Prince Angelimar heightened himself in his throne. ‘My son, the affairs of your daughter are well-kept in both yours and her mother’s hands. To me, your edict to her can have no affect by any word of mine. I grant you what you ask – both of you.’
Overjoyed, Ivriniel reverently bowed to her grandfather the Prince and beaming, walked from the room, though in her glee she almost skipped, and Imrahil walked with her in congratulations. But as Irilde went to the side of Adrahil his face was still troubled by questions, and Finduilas, who had said no word but in her own thoughts, sadly went from the chamber and slunk into her own room, where she did not leave and forbade any from entering.
It had been now three days since the edict had been given, and Ivriniel was ready and prepared to leave, and stirrings of her departure from Dol Amroth were beginning to spread amongst the people, though none suspected the granddaughter of the Prince’s true intent to travel to the legendary wood of Lothlorien. Yet since the decision had been made, Ivriniel, nor anyone else, had seen any sign of her sister Finduilas. Their younger brother Imrahil had expressed his concern to Ivriniel, and soon her mother Irilde asked her to see to her sister, though it was already in her mind to do so.
Ivriniel had made her way through the palace to Finduilas’ room and knocked softly upon her door, a little nervously. At length, it was opened a fraction and then immediately closed before Ivriniel could say a word.
‘Finduilas, please! Let me speak to you!’ she pleaded.
‘I have nothing to say to anyone, especially you. Leave me!’
‘You cannot sulk in your room forever! Please, how am I supposed to leave without saying goodbye to my little sister?’
‘Well if you cannot say goodbye then perhaps you should not leave at all,’ Finduilas retorted.
‘I knew this is what you were upset about,’ said Ivriniel, trying not to sound too exasperated by her sister’s behaviour. ‘Can you please open the door?’
After a few moments Finduilas slowly emerged, her face pale and her eyes red. Without a word she turned and sunk into her bed, leaving Ivriniel to enter herself.
‘Finduilas, I do not ask you to understand what I am doing,’ Ivriniel started, though her sister seemed to ignore her presence. ‘But it has to be done. I cannot explain why, it is just a strange feeling in my heart.’
‘Is it like love?’ Finduilas said earnestly, though her voice was cracked from sorrow.
Ivriniel instantly recognized the meaning of her sister’s words and sat down next to her on the bed. ‘Finduilas, are you in love?’
Finduilas looked at her older sister, and as she did it seemed all weariness went from her face and she smiled with great joy. ‘Yes. Yes, I am.’
The sisters held one another and laughed merrily. ‘This is wondrous news!’ exclaimed Ivriniel. ‘The affections of the Lord Denethor have won you over?’
‘Yes; he is a wise and courteous man, of great depth. Once I tell father I think we will be married soon…’
‘Then why do you cry? This is an occasion of greatest joy!’ Ivriniel spoke.
Sadness crept back slowly into Finduilas’ face. ‘I know. And I think of our wedding and of the life we would have together and am glad, but then I think of how my sister, whom I have truly loved my whole life, will not be there to see it.’
Finduilas bowed her head, but Ivriniel sternly held her shoulders and said to her in confirmation with the bond that only siblings share, ‘Finduilas, I will return. I will see you again. Sometimes I have thought that perhaps I am never meant to return, but then I too think of being without you, and I know that I shall, even if it is against my fate to do so.’
Ivriniel could not help herself but burst into tears, and now Finduilas held her in comfort. There the sisters stayed for a long while, neither wishing to go, but both knowing that separation was destined for them.