Aladriel looked down at the sleepy village of Ethirwyn. Memories of an unhappy childhood flooded back to her. She had spent all of one and twenty years trapped here, held by her father’s will.
It had not always been the prison she regarded it as now. Not when her mother had been there to share it with her. Her mother had shown her the secrets of the woods, shown her how to find her way if ever she was lost, using the sun and stars, shown her the feast the forest could provide when one looked closely.
She had told her the tales of old, of elven folk and their grace, and of the great grey wizard, older than time itself. Her mother had been a great storyteller, taking Aladriel inside the story, as if she herself had experienced it.
A ghost of a smile played on Aladriel’s lips. Her mother had been such a free spirit, full of youthful exuberance and with a wandering soul. She had never been happy here, held in one place, but had been totally devoted to her father.
Then the illness hit him. He never recovered, struck in the prime of his life, now withered and unable to walk. It had poisoned his heart and he had become the angry and bitter man he was now.
Her mother had not stayed after that, hating the man she had married because he allowed himself to be weak.
“I am returning home. I would take you Aladriel, but I cannot willingly take you into such danger. You are young and have a long life ahead of you. Perhaps, when you have come of age, you will decide to follow me. I will wait for you with a heavy heart until that day is come.”
Aladriel remembered their parting as if it were yesterday.
“How will I find you mother? I know not where you go, or how you get there. Will you not tell me so I know in which direction you travel?”
Her mother had simply smiled, smoothing Aladriels wild curls with her slender hand.
” I do not need to tell you where I travel. You are my daughter and know it in your heart, even as we speak. You will remember when the time comes.”
At this her mother had mounted her horse, making ready to leave. Young Aladriel, anguished at the loss of her mother had cried and held tight to her mother’s leather clad leg.
“Mama, please stay. What if I can’t find you? I will never see you again.”
Her mother smiled again, somewhat sadly, and without speaking took her ring from her finger and pressed it into Aladriel’s hand. Riding away, she had not looked back, but her words remained with Aladriel.
“This ring will bring you to me.”
Lookin down at the very same ring, Aladriel took her first step of the journey that would change her life. She could not ride as her mother had done, her father had forbidden it, saying it was not ladylike, but she would walk to the ends of middle earth to see her mother once more.