6. Part 1 - Chapter 5
Gilraen was brought to the main house that day by an Elf named Lindir. He and another had come to the conference chamber for an unrelated purpose, but Elrond asked that Lindir escort Gilraen to the quarters prepared for her.
As they left the hall, Gilraen asked him, "Are you from Mithlond, lord?" When speaking of his travels, Arathorn had mentioned to her once that Elves beyond Rivendell often had different appearances. Lindir's long hair was silver, and his build a bit lanky compared to the dark-haired Elves in Rivendell.
When he laughed, the sound was akin to a chirping bird. "I am from Mithlond no more than I am a Lord here. But excuse me; perhaps that is a customary form of address among your folk."
She grappled over an answer until deciding he did not likely wait for one. Lindir explained some things of Elrond's house as they walked -where places were and when events occurred- but Gilraen was preoccupied keeping Aragorn from dashing off to explore on his own terms, or handling things that presumably had value beyond measure.
Several Elves paused at the sight of the child with mixed expressions of confusion and wonder. A few approached, and after peering closely at the boy, a knowing look would come upon them. They spoke sociably to Gilraen, seeming to be most interested in her son. But Aragorn did not relish their attentions in that hour, as he would have savored a meal or a familiar face, and he became restive after hearing so many names and questions – then when his mother spoke too long and the Elves too slowly, he became cross.
Gilraen knew when Lindir turned to her beside a doorway that she would be fortunate to find her way back outside, much less to the kitchens, after the distractions along the way.
"Your things were brought within, or so I was told," the Elf cocked his head into the room, and nodded in affirmation. "Will this be adequate?"
She knew not if he meant the room or the directions she had not heard half of or aught else. But Aragorn fussed to be released, alternately reaching for a vase against the wall and a pillow upon a window sill, and she could not give her full attention to Lindir until her son's restlessness abated. "Yes, 'tis all fine, I thank you!"
Lindir moved aside to allow her entry, smiling – though his gaze shifted to Aragorn frequently, clearly baffled by the child's upset. "Until supper, then." And he left, as Gilraen coaxed her son inside.
That done she sighed, closing the door as if it might block the last quarter hour from her memory. She leaned against the wall for a moment with her eyes closed, enjoying the silence. Once realizing the silence was uncommonly prolonged, she whirled. The room was nicely furnished and well kept; she guessed that it had been occupied by someone else not long ago. Her belongings were set around, a few things lay on the bed, the rest sat on the floor. And in the middle of the unfamiliar place and the chore of unpacking stood her son, looking like a lost lamb where wolves howled in the distance.
His bottom lip trembled, both arms were stiff and held close to his sides. "Where's papa?" he said, nervous and demanding at once.
Gilraen sighed. His earlier irritability had been recognized as an indication of sleepiness, and she was fully prepared to put her misbehaved child down for a nap. But this was different. "Later, Aragorn," she said. "Ask me that later, please."
He frowned. "Go home." It was not a request.
Always before, familiar faces had welcomed him in houses that were not his own. With only strangers in this place, it was no wonder that he did not wish to stay. Any annoyance Gilraen might have felt was gone; only compassion remained. "No, Aragorn. This will be our home now." She shook her head as he made ready to ask again, for the answer would never change.
He rubbed hard at his eyes as the tears came, the sum of his frustration, and he burrowed against the bed, writhing as if to rub off the truth. But there was no ridding himself of what he knew in his heart, even if he knew of no word to describe it. "I want papa!" He fought against his mother's gentle hands as she lifted and settled him upon the bed. Gilraen could sympathize with the need to struggle against something, anything. She knew he would have fought his father just the same, for not coming back sooner, and leaving in the first place, and for ever being gone at all. But Aragorn would never have that chance. And neither will I.
"Shh..." Gilraen stroked her son's dark hair as he fidgeted in an uneasy sleep, and did not shed a single tear for herself.
Aragorn awoke at the hour when supper would normally be served. He was hungry, but not impatient – much to Gilraen's relief.
No one had come to the door throughout the day, and Gilraen expected that would not change as the hour grew later. She remembered her mother's way of conducting such things: any guest in the household who was not at the table in time would know no peace until they sat for a meal. But Elves, it seemed, respected the privacy of their guests more than they expected compliments on their cooking.
She persuaded her son to suffer a washing and don clean clothes, then left him to explore the room while she tidied herself; but his mood was changed. Whatever excitement kept him content during the journey had faded. He knows things are not as they should be, now. Again she rued coming alone.
Venturing out of the room, the house was darker than expected. The sun had descended below the horizon of the gully walls, casting the valley in shadow. Not wishing to traverse the house after nightfall, Gilraen pressed onward quickly.
Fortune had her soon cross paths with an Elf. She was a tall female, fair of face, with a basket balanced on her hip. Gilraen greeted her in Sindarin, and introduced herself. The Elf replied in Westron, as had everyone else in Rivendell, "Greetings to you, Gilraen. I am Telmoth." She eyed Aragorn, eventually smiling at the boy. "You are searching for the kitchens."
Gilraen laughed with relief. "Yes, does he look that hungry?"
"Not so, but I heard of your absence at supper. I am going to the kitchens now, and you may follow me there."
She led the way, and Gilraen made sure to mark the course they took. Passing outside they approached a separate building that appeared at first to be a large chamber with many arching windows. Once closer Gilraen realized that it was not one room, but several arrayed in a circle. They entered, moving easily from one orderly room to another by interconnecting doorways. Gilraen was amazed to see that an area was designated for each chore of cooking. Her own kitchen and that of her mother seemed little better than a campfire in comparison.
Last they came into a room aglow with firelight from many hearths. Over the furthest a black pot was suspended, its contents filling the room with an appetizing aroma. Elladan stood there. His clothing was different; now he wore dark leggings and a rich tunic the color of red wine, and his unbraided hair was neatly tied back. Gilraen could scarcely recognize him from behind as the grim, gray-clad warrior she had ridden with that same day. But then he turned, and the face was unmistakable, comely and severe.
"Hai!" Aragorn tried to run to the Elf-man, but Gilraen restrained him, mindful of his place as well as hers.
"Gilraen, well met!" Elladan came to the entrance, looking down at Aragorn's expression, now turned to uncertainty. "I fear that you have mistaken me for Elrohir, little one."
"Well, I have not." Lowering her basket to the floor, Telmoth moved to embrace him. "I see your brother has brought you home safely yet again," she said.
Elladan barely winced at her words. "Yes." He beckoned Gilraen to enter, motioning towards a table nearby. "Have you eaten, lady? Or your boy?" She explained how her day had been spent, ending with her search for the kitchens. Elladan was chafed to hear of Lindir. "That Elf! He might have thought to escort you to supper, at least. I would have noticed you missing, had I been there myself."
Gilraen regretted recounting the tale, seeing that he was not amused by it. "Nay, hold Lindir blameless. 'Twas my own fault for… well, Aragorn was troubled." Their talk turned to negotiations when Aragorn reminded his mother of his hunger. Elladan asked Gilraen to sit and be served, and she resisted as far as propriety would allow. They came to an agreement that Elladan was pleased with, but Gilraen felt no less awkward being waited upon.
Telmoth took her leave as they sat to eat, and the room fell quiet for a time. Elladan and Gilraen spoke little during their meal, out of decorum as much as hunger. When Aragorn accepted a second ladle of stew, Gilraen commented upon Elladan's cooking, and thanked him. "He has never eaten so much at one sitting. It must be your skill with spices."
Either the compliment was missed or unwanted. "Nay, his appetite is owed to the traveling." Gilraen watched as he went to a cabinet, returning with a dark bottle and two glasses. His expression was pensive as he poured. "I wish to apologize, lady. Earlier I said that I would not rejoice in this homecoming; but I had not reasoned that my return in disgrace also signifies your safe arrival."
The muted trickle of wine was the loudest sound in the chamber. Elladan took his seat again, gazing upon his goblet. Gilraen was moved with the yearning to console him, yet made no attempt. Surely the feelings of one such as him are beyond my comprehension. What could I say? She settled on formality. "I did not take your meaning in that way, lord, not at all."
"Regardless, I was rude. And alas that this is all the energy I can spare for merrymaking; I hope it will suffice." A ghost of a smile played on his lips. "Your proper welcome must be postponed until another night, and in truth, few here are aware of your arrival as yet. But rest assured that Elves relish any good cause for celebration, and you will be received most gladly when the time comes."
With a sigh he paused, his face falling somber again; Gilraen perceived that his cheer was a forced effort, one he was unaccustomed to making. Sitting forward he reached across the table, wine in hand. "If Men have a different way with such things, I am unfamiliar with it. But I would raise my glass to Arathorn, in honour and remembrance, and to you his widow, in sympathy and welcome. During dark times my people might say: day will come again. May you find some comfort in that."
Gilraen returned the gesture, bringing the brims of their cups together; but she had no pretty words that felt worth sharing, so they sipped their wine in silence. Once her cup was nearly drained the quiet seemed less peaceful, full of emptiness. Mayhap Elladan will be more talkative, if he feels the need to make amends.
"What of those good causes, then? Tell me of the things Elves celebrate."
"High days," Elladan answered. "Occasions worthy of remembrance. Elves find meaning in both joy and sorrow, and forget naught. You will visit the Hall of Fire ere long, where many tales are told and songs are sung, of Elder Days, terrible and splendid. Some Elves dwelling here have seen many Ages past, even before the rising of the Sun and Moon."
What he said was no less fascinating, if somewhat unbelievable. But Gilraen only wanted him to continue, and keep the engulfing silence at bay. Her gaze fell on his unadorned hands, then to the band around her own finger. "Do Elves celebrate weddings?"
"Yes, weddings may be celebrated, but they may be private as well. A joyous occasion, in any case."
"Are you married?" Elladan did not answer at once, and she misconstrued his silence. "That is, if I may ask."
"No, I am unwed." He shook his head. "Ah, I had forgotten that you would not know. Elves can tell such things by the look and voice of another."
"That is a tale of the Elves I would not have believed, had I heard it from a man," Gilraen said. She considered her words, not wishing to trespass, and decided to ask what seemed to be a harmless question. "Is it also true then that you can read the hearts of others?"
Elladan laughed before peering closely. "Well, let me see... you are curious in the fullness of youth, yet wise as a woman learned of domestic affairs, and eager for deep knowledge of other things." Smiling he sat back. "But I jested, for I need not read your heart to know this about you."
Gilraen had not expected that he would tease, and laughed. "Oh, very well. Still, you are perceptive, whether you could read my heart or no." Gauging his mood, he did not seem tired of her questions; she decided to pose one more. "What is the power that guards this valley, lord? Rivendell is kept hidden and safe, that much is clear. But how, and for so long whilst the Shadow grows? Is it Elf-magic?"
Elladan went quiet, and straightened in his chair. At length he shrugged. "The magic you think of is called wizardry, I deem. But the Elves have no hand in that, and wisely so – have you not heard this saying: 'Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger'?" It was plain he aimed for levity, but his easiness of before was diminished. Gilraen made no further attempts to prompt him.
When their glasses were drained, Elladan cleared the table and extinguished the hearth fire. Now only lamps glowed on the walls. Even as Gilraen was fretting over the darkness he came to her side. "If you would allow me to make a brief stop along the way, I will escort you to your room."
They rose and went out, Aragorn carried in his mother's arms. Elladan navigated effortlessly through the darkened halls, and though Gilraen was impressed, eventually she lost sight of him, and waited in place. "Forgive me," he said returning; "they shall begin to light the sconces at night again." Thereafter he walked slower, and rested his hand lightly upon her shoulder in guidance. For a moment there might have been grass under her feet, and then they halted where a slit of firelight reached across the floor.
"I shall not be long." Elladan opened the door and entered. By the time Gilraen realized it was a bedchamber, she had already seen within. A figure was prone upon a bed, nude save for a draping over his thighs, and candlelight reflected off of the bronze band circling his thumb. Ugly bruises riddled Elrohir's shoulders and back, some marks rimmed by red crescents where the skin had been broken.
Sitting on the bedside was Elrond, focused upon his son. Neither of them appeared to notice that the door was opened – nor that Gilraen stood beside the threshold blushing, for which she was immensely thankful.
Elrond was doing some sort of work, though he held no tools, and there was no blood. His hands moved in unpredictable but aesthetic patterns over the injured portions, sometimes pausing or appearing to apply pressure. Elrohir's expression remained untroubled despite his father's ministrations, breathing deep and even. His eyes were lightly closed, and he did not speak.
Elladan spoke in Sindarin as he approached, and Elrond answered quietly in the same tongue. Gilraen was enthralled by the sound of their elvish voices, so similar in tone, yet separated by uncountable nuances of emphasis and pitch. An odour came to her then, decidedly pleasant; refreshing as mint, soothing as chamomile. She allowed her eyes to drift closed, trying to place the scent – upon opening them she was startled to find that Elladan stood before her. He said simply, "We may go."
As he led her through the darkness of night again, she pondered over what she had seen. Soon they reached her room -or so Elladan assured her- and he followed her inside. "Shall I light a lamp for your convenience, lady?"
"Thank you, but I can see well enough to put Aragorn to bed." Elladan moved as if to leave, and she spoke quickly, "I would have given my respects, but I feared to disturb them."
"I do not think your words would have disturbed them any more than mine." He sounded perplexed. "But you may see them tomorrow, and speak freely with them then."
"I-I only would have wished Elrohir well." Though she felt awkward to have witnessed such a private incident, it seemed more disrespectful to ignore what was beheld. "But your brother will not be resting from his injuries? His wounds looked... quite painful."
Elladan shifted, but his expression was concealed by shadow. "While you are right that he should rest, only dire need would keep him bedridden."
"I'm sorry." Gilraen could hear what darkness hid from her sight: Elladan's concern was loud as his words. Without thinking she rested her hand on his arm, feeling the tunic silkier than that of mortal weaving. "What happened?"
Before answering he looked to the door, then down. "He was trampled by a riderless horse."
Gilraen asked without thinking, "Palaber?"
If not for the brightness of his eyes, she would not know that he met her gaze."Elrond Halfelven is a master of healing, lady, and my brother mends with the speed of Elves. Worry not; he will be hale again soon."
A dozen questions arose in Gilraen's mind. But she only bid Elladan a good night. Long after he had gone, and Aragorn was tucked comfortably into bed, she lay awake, trying not to imagine what that day had been like, able to think of nothing else.
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.