10. Brighter Day
Judging by the light that was just peeking through the curtains, dawn had already broken over an hour ago. But it was the sounds she awoke to in the morning, that first told Mírra she was not where she should be; the chattering of small birds outside, and bleating sounds of what could only be sheep.
Not to say that there was nothing to be heard in the morning in Minas Tirith, but the palace was well sheltered from the noise of the city. On each morning of their journey so far, it had been disconcerting at first, to awake to something more than silence, in such open country. Not better or worse, simply different.
Mírra sat up, groggy from so much sleep. Running her fingers lightly over the bandage, she could feel her arm was still tender. A few minor cuts stung her forehead and cheek, and her head ached, but she was relieved to discover she felt otherwise fine. She found her sable travel dress was gone, replaced with a plain beige frock, a nightdress perhaps.
For the first time since she had arrived here, she looked around the room she found herself in. It was simple enough, and fairly small. She wondered if it was a spare room, or perhaps that of a child, for aside from the bed the only furniture was a small wardrobe and wooden chair, and a small table beside the bed.
Curious about her new surroundings, Mírra stood, and stepped slowly over to the window that was on the same wall as the bed.
As she pushed back the curtains, the brightness of the early morning sunshine momentarily startled her eyes, but she smiled as she saw that blue sky and friendly white clouds had replaced yesterday’s storm.
The house was surrounded by pasture, and the rain had made the grass green and bright. Just off in the distance there were sheep, grazing in small groups, all around the field. She noticed first one man, then two, tending the flock; she guessed them to be the men who had found her, as she remembered the friendly voice she had heard yesterday.
Anxiety sank into her stomach at the recollection of what had happened. Eldarion. Where was he now? What must he be thinking?
Before she could dwell on it, there was a knock at the door.
“Come in?” Her voice was unexpectedly fragile, and she cleared her throat as the door opened.
Doreth entered, her expression lively.
“How glad I am to see you are awake!”
She rushed over, setting down a tray that held an earthen mug of some warm drink, and what looked to be bread and cheese. Mírra could not help but smile, albeit a little nervously, at her cheerfulness.
Although they had met the previous day, Mírra now took greater notice of her hostess. Doreth was of medium height and build, with brown eyes and light hair. By her looks Mírra guessed her to be a few years older than her brother, perhaps in her mid twenties. Her hands and arms showed wiry strength, due no doubt to the work of keeping her home, but her face was bright and fair.
“You look well,” she added. “How are you feeling?”
“Better, I think.”
“I have set your dress out to wash, it was quite muddy. But if it does not bother you, I can give you a dress of mine to wear, in the meantime?”
“That is very good of you.” Doreth’s cheeks seemed to flush slightly. Perhaps she was as anxious as Mírra was.
Thinking then on her appearance, it was then that she realised, with a surprise, that her neck was bare.
Doreth saw Mírra gasp as she put her hand to her throat. “Something is wrong?”
“My necklace, it’s gone…”
“I did not have it, when you found me?”
Doreth only shook her head. “No, miss, I’m sorry to say. It was valuable?”
“It was a gift, so it was special to me,” Mírra answered, rubbing the side of her neck. “I lost my cloak when it became caught on a fallen branch… the chain must have broken then.”
She looked aside, and hugged her elbows with a touch of awkwardness.
Though by her height and stature she seemed mature enough, Doreth began to see that the young woman before was still so young, and simply anxious to be separated from her family, to be in such a strange place.
“Not to worry, miss. If all you have lost is a piece of jewelry, and a cloak,” she said kindly, “then you are indeed fortunate.”
Mírra gave a nod, briefly looked down at her folded arms.
“You’re right,” she smiled weakly, looking up again. “If you please,” Mírra continued, “I am quite concerned to get word to my brother. I know he must be looking for me.”
“Of course,” Doreth nodded.
“We crossed the Morthond, twenty miles or so from Erech. But how far we are from there, or the river, I do not know.”
Doreth raised her eyebrows.
“Goodness, that is quite a few miles from here. You were taken far.” Mírra knew not how to respond, but was indeed touched by her evident concern. “And to be as little hurt as you are…”
Unexpectedly, the blond woman put her arms around her guest, taking Mírra into a tight hug.
“How frightened you must have been!”
Mírra pulled back after a moment, feeling emotion get the better of her.
“Thank you. Thank you for helping me,” she said quietly, her voice slightly choked.
Doreth gave another smile.
“The river itself is not terribly far from here. Either Adair, or my brother Doran will be able to go back to look for your party. Please, do not worry.”
Mírra nodded, feeling more relieved. With everything this woman had already done, she felt now that there truly was no cause for worry.
“Come, you must be hungry. If you would like more to eat, I can find something for you. But please, if you feel well, you must now come and meet my family.” Doreth took Mírra’s hand merrily.
“Yes,” Mírra smiled, brightness returning to her complexion, “that sounds lovely.”
Having eaten, Mírra felt much more refreshed. Doreth had found an extra shawl and dress for her to wear; the dress was a little loose around the middle, and a bit short in the sleeves, but perfectly suitable, and of a light blue colour. She had even brought a comb for Mírra to tidy her hair.
She found her way outside to see the older woman hanging wet laundry out to dry. Near the house, two boys were running after each other in a game of chase. A small girl sat on the grass, closer in, examining patches of clover. She looked up as Mírra joined Doreth, and ran straight to her mother’s skirts.
“Oh, silly thing, you,” Doreth teased her. “Meet my daughter Ailsa. She is being shy, suddenly.”
The resemblance was apparent, as Ailsa had the same brown eyes and blond hair as her mother.
“I have a sister a few years younger than you,” she said, smiling back at the little girl.
“Connor!” Doreth called loudly, turning.
The two boys stopped in their game, and ran over as Doreth gestured to them. One had a head full of short brown curls, the other was blond and light-eyed. They could not have been more than a year apart, perhaps aged eight or nine.
“This is my son Connor,” Doreth gestured, to the darker-haired boy. “and this is Nolan. Children, this is Mírra, she is our guest.”
Mírra gave a friendly nod. “Hello.”
“Were you really caught in the storm?” asked the fairer boy eagerly.
“Nolan! That isn’t polite,” Doreth chided.
“No, no it is alright,” Mírra assured her. She could understand the child’s curiosity. “Yes I was. We were on the way to Edoras, when it happened.”
“Oh…” added Doreth softly, a touch of awe in her voice. “I have never seen Edoras, myself. My husband has been a few times, for trading. Did your brother have business there, then? Someone to see?”
“Yes, I suppose he does have business there. We were going to meet with my father, in any case.”
Doreth took this to mean that Mírra’s father lived in the Rohan city.
“How lovely, then. But you do not seem Rohirric, by your looks?”
Mírra shook her head, smiling lightly.
“Oh, no. My family’s house is called Telcontar. My father has been meeting with Rohan for the last few months, he – ”
She heard Doreth gasp silently, bringing her fingertips briefly to her mouth, as her eyes strayed briefly to the sable dress that was now hanging to dry in the sunshine.
“Good gracious…” She seemed to sway slightly. “Your father is not the King?”
“That’s right.” Mírra was unsure how else to reply.
Doreth looked shaken.
“Connor, go and get your father. Go now.”
At her urging the two boys ran off together, to the nearby pasture. The girl still stayed by her mother, looking up with wide eyes at the two women.
“Have I upset you?” Mírra laid a hand lightly on her companion’s arm, in what was meant to be a friendly gesture, but it caused Doreth to jump slightly.
“No my lady, of course not, I…” she held her hands out in near supplication, “Oh, of course I should have recognised your name, should have guessed by the colour of your dress, who you were… Oh, and how could I have given you such a plain thing to wear, why did I not give you a finer gown, oh…”
“It is alright, this is perfectly well, Doreth.” Their conversation had changed abruptly, and now Mírra was the one taking a tone of reassurance. “Already you have done so much.”
“But this changes things now, we must get you to your family… we must get you to his highness as soon as possible.”
In a few short minutes the boys returned, with both men.
Doreth’s husband Adair was also of medium height, and very lean. His brown curly hair matched Connor’s and his beard was the same. The other man, Doran, was tall and of larger build. His straight hair was sand-coloured, and he had the same warm brown eyes as his sister. He was also older, perhaps in his early thirties, judging from the friendly creases about his eyes.
As Doreth explained the situation, an air of immediacy began to permeate the conversation.
“We should leave at once then,” said Adair firmly.
“No, perhaps it is best if I go alone, if you are needed here, if the lady’s party finds her before I find them,” replied Doran. It was then that Mírra recognised his voice, as the one she had heard yesterday. Very low, almost gentle. At the time it had made her feel comforted, strangely enough.
But whatever was the proper way for her to behave in such a situation, she could not think of it. She therefore decided to speak as straightforwardly as possible.
“Perhaps I should go with you.”
“Oh, no my lady,” Doreth rushed to take Mírra’s hand, “please, you must stay here. If we were to let you go before you were fully recovered and rested, I should never forgive myself…”
Mírra could not help but be swayed by the sincerity of her concern. Not letting go of Doreth’s hand, she turned to Doran.
“I know Eldarion will be searching the river. We crossed about twenty miles south of Erech, that is where I fell.”
“That is less than a day’s ride from here,” he nodded. “I will go first to the place where we found you, and ride north along the river bank.”
Mírra became quiet for a moment, as the others saw her brow crease in thought. She crossed quickly to the laundry line and, as she found her dress, appeared to tear something from part of the fabric.
Returning to the group, she approached Doran and held it out a scrap of dark fabric, meaning for him to take it.
“Here,” she said, placing the fabric she had torn from the pocket of her dress in his palm. Looking down, he saw a figure of a white tree embroidered with silver on the black cloth. “You shall know the men you are looking for, by this symbol on their garments. And when you show them this, so shall they know you are a friend.”
For a brief moment Doran looked up at the young lady before him, and her dark eyes were clear and calm. Just as he withdrew, he felt her fingertips brush his palm, the second time he had felt her touch upon his hand.
“As you wish it, my lady.”
With a simple bow of his head, he tucked the cloth into the pocket of his coat.
Much earlier that morning, Eldarion found himself in much less calm a situation. Although the storm had cleared soon enough, their search efforts had proved fruitless. Night had fallen too quickly, and there was no choice but to stop and camp, at least for a few hours.
However, the brief rest had not prevented him from keeping awake, with a twist of tension in his stomach that he had felt since being pulled from the river himself yesterday. He had even needed to be coerced into putting on dry clothes.
At the first light they were off again, moving slowly down the riverbank, searching. The thought that Eldarion pushed away was that even if they did find something, it could very well not be a happy find.
It was still morning when a commotion alerted the attention of his party. Riders approached.
Father. The twist in his stomach tightened.
They must have travelled through the night, of course. Eldarion saw the King at the head of the group, and riding fast. There was no reading his expression, except for a fierce intentness about his gaze. He reached his son with little difficulty, and dismounted to speak to him privately.
Drawing in a breath to steady his voice, Eldarion related to his father the events of the past day.
“The other half of the group is now searching the western bank, while we continue here,” he finished.
“And you have found no sign?” Aragorn searched his son’s face, but Eldarion continued to look, with a somewhat detached stare, at the ground.
“Only one.” The prince went to his horse and collected a dark bundle from his saddle bag. “Her cloak, we found near the water’s edge, caught.”
Aragorn collected the heavy garment from Eldarion, looking it over carefully.
“The clasp is intact,” he noted, “little damage, except for water. You found it in the river?”
Eldarion nodded. “But it was many miles back, and there has been nothing since.”
“I see.” Aragorn folded the cloak over one arm, and stood in quiet contemplation for a moment, pinching a thumb and forefinger to his lips. He began to appear calmer. “What are your thoughts?”
Eldarion looked up slowly, considering his answer. He still could not read his father’s expression, but Aragorn’s voice had not been hard.
“I have contacted no one except for you, and I do not think yet that we should go so far as to send word to Minas Tirith. Presently there is nothing to indicate anything, one way or the other.”
“Agreed,” said the King, with a brief nod. Again there was silence, as the older man waited for the younger to continue.
“But, although the outcome is not certain, I worry. I… I regret.”
“Of course. To cross the Morthond during the storm? If I had not been so foolish we would not be here, Mírra would not have – ”
Aragorn cut him off. “You must stop this worrying now, Eldarion, you must not blame yourself for what happened.”
“But how can you say that, if you were not there to see it?” Unintentionally his voice raised. “You do not wonder at how it happened, at why we did not go by the West Road?”
“You are right, I was not there.” The tone of the King’s voice began to match his son’s. “And indeed I did wonder greatly, when I received word of the route you had taken.”
“Then how is it that you can be so calm?”
“Do you want me to blame you for this? I worry dearly for your sister, Eldarion, but our situation would not be improved by me showing anger to you.”
The prince dipped his head again.
“You’re right. All we can do is search, and wait.”
He turned to face the riverbank, one hand on his hip, the other scratching an eyebrow.
Aragorn let out a deep sigh, and the weariness and anxiety of the night’s ride were revealed in his face. He crossed slowly to Eldarion’s horse, and tucked Mírra’s cloak back where it had been, in the saddle bag.
“I will take the western bank then.” Turning, he received no response, as his son seemed to be peering at something in the grass, eyes fixed at one spot. “Eldarion?”
The prince stepped cautiously over the soft, wet ground, and crouched over the object. As Aragorn approached, he saw something shining in Eldarion’s palm. It was a violet coloured stone, roughly shaped, set in fine detail on a silver chain.
Eldarion caught his breath, realising what he had found. “It is hers.”
Looking back, he met his father’s eye.
“This must mean…”
“…she made it out of the water,” Aragorn finished. For a moment there was renewed hope in both their expressions.
The two men rapidly began to examine the ground around them with careful scrutiny, suddenly aware of each crushed blade of grass or depression in the mud.
Eldarion gestured in front of him, away from the river. “Here, there are footprints.”
Quickly they alerted the attention of their companions, as they followed the tracks.
Before getting far, however, they heard a call being raised nearby. Two of the men of their party approached on foot, with a third man, a stranger to them.
“Your highnesses,” said the first man, “this man brings news.”
Doran felt all eyes on him, as he gave a small bow from the neck.
“I think I have found… what you are searching for.”
The fair-haired man nodded to the King, and spoke simply. “The Lady Mírra bid me show you this.”
“How does she?” Asked Eldarion, just as Aragorn took the scrap of cloth.
“Very well, in my sister’s care. So it please your highnesses, I will take you to her.”
“We shall follow you at once.”
The riders mounted, and departed in speed from the riverside.
“Do you wish to come inside, my lady?” asked Doreth.
“Oh, not yet, if it is alright. I do so enjoy the sunshine, after the past few days.”
“Of course, so please you.”
Sitting on the grass, Mírra watched Ailsa pluck segments from a flower in the clover. Doreth crossed once more to the laundry line, checking that sheets were dry. She seemed to be intent on finding a task.
“May I help you?”
“Oh, you need not trouble yourself, my lady,” Doreth flustered again.
“Please, call me Mírra. And it is no trouble, not after all you have already provided for me.”
Just then the two young boys came running past, laughing.
“We are going to the barn, mama!” called the dark-haired boy. Hearing this, Ailsa immediately leapt up, to follow her brother.
“Mind you keep out of trouble with your father!” Doreth called back. “There are two new lambs this week,” she explained, turning back to Mírra.
“Exciting indeed,” replied the princess, watching the children dash off. “Your younger son certainly favours his father,” she added, at an attempt at conversation.
“My younger son? Oh, I see,” she smiled, laughing away momentary confusion. “No, only Ailsa and Connor are my children. Nolan is Doran’s son.”
“Doran?” Mírra looked to her companion in surprise. “I had not realised he was married.”
“He was,” Doreth answered gently. “But his wife died, quite a few years ago.”
“But we all still make up one family, all the same,” the older woman explained, seeking to alleviate Mírra’s discomfort at the subject. “Nolan spends so much time with us, and is so close with Connor, the two of them are almost like brothers.”
“They are lively boys,” Mírra smiled.
“If I may speak plainly, my lady, that is putting it mildly indeed,” laughed Doreth. She gestured to the sheet next to them, on the line. “Come, will we fold this one, then?”
Mírra took up two corners. The linen gleamed bright white with sunshine, billowing briefly before they folded it into a smaller square.
“May I ask you something, my lady?” Doreth began, somewhat shyly. “I know it will sound simple, I’m sure.”
“What is it?”
“Well, your mother, the Queen… she is an elf?”
“Why, yes,” Mírra nodded. Doreth came to stand beside her, still holding the folded sheet in her hands, toying with some loose threads at one corner.
“This will sound silly, but… I almost did not believe it when I first heard it. It sounded like something that could only happen in songs.”
“I confess I had never considered it unusual.” She gave a shrug of her shoulders. “They are simply my parents.”
“Of course,” Doreth blushed slightly. “They must love each other a great deal.”
“I believe they do.” To her surprise, Mírra blushed back.
The two women shared a smile.
As they began to collect the remainder of the dry laundry, Mírra thought she could hear the sound of horses approaching, hooves pounding in the distance. Turning west, looking past the house, she indeed saw a small group approaching, one rider finding his way quicker than the others.
Picking up her skirt, with no other thought in her head, Mírra ran toward them.
As soon as he dismounted he put his arms around his sister in a tight hug.
“I am so very relieved to see you,” she said over his shoulder.
“You cannot be more relieved than I, trust me,” Eldarion nearly laughed.
Mírra then saw the remainder of the search party nearing the house. In front of Doran, racing quickly toward them, was her father.
The King quickly reached his children, paying little attention to the gazes of surprised observers. Adair had come from the barn, the three children huddled next to him, looking on in wonder at the sudden visitors.
“Ada!” Though unexpected, Mírra was suddenly so very glad to see him.
“Are you hurt? Tell me, how are you?”
With concern Aragorn looked from the bandage on Mírra’s arm, then raised a hand lightly underneath her chin, to look carefully at her face. Mírra saw how his gaze scattered to take in the few cuts, and would not stay still.
“I’m alright, father,” she said softly, laying her hand on his arm. “I’m alright.”
The King met his daughter’s eyes then, for a moment. He then drew his arms around her shoulders, as he bowed his head in relief, no longer calm.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.