Ilmarë saw no sign of Elrond when she walked downstairs with Ereinion, but it was not for lack of looking. Once at the foot of the stairs, they turned and walked down the western hallway. Ilmarë peered in every open doorway trying to catch sight of her elusive late-night visitor. By the time they reached the dining room at the end of the long, marble corridor, Ilmarë was tempted to go back and look behind the closed doors as well. Elrond was nearby…she knew it - she could feel it in every impatient, agitated bone in her bothersome body.
“It would appear that Elrond has not yet risen. Have you seen him this morning?” Ilmarë was pleased that she had managed to sound only mildly curious.
Ereinion opened the large carved doors to the dining room and allowed Ilmarë to enter first. “I have not seen him this morning but Haleth told me he had already eaten. More likely than not he is in the main study down the hall. That is where we usually tend to business matters. We passed it when we first came down the stairs. We will go there after breakfast.”
A smile crept onto Ereinion’s face as Ilmarë walked past him. “I hope you are not weary of my company so early in the day, Ilmarë. If so, it will make for a tedious day as I planned to spend the morning and the better part of the afternoon escorting you around Mithlond. I thought you might like to see the city and learn about my kingdom.”
As anxious as she was to see Elrond again, Ilmarë did truly enjoy Ereinion’s company. His open and easy-going nature made her feel very comfortable, and the thought of spending the day with him was a pleasant one. She believed that Ereinion’s friendship, like Círdan’s, would prove to be one of great value.
“It would be a witless woman who would tire of your company, Ereinion. I may be lacking in experience but I assure you, I do not lack for wit. I would enjoy seeing Mithlond and being taught of Lindon. I must become more familiar with the political dealings of these lands if I am to be of any use. Perhaps we could ask Elrond along, as well?”
“Perhaps,” Ereinion said and motioned for Ilmarë to walk with him across the room, “or perhaps not. I enjoyed keeping you all to myself last evening. Although I must say, I will also enjoy being seen around the city with such a lovely companion. It will make me the center of attention and that is something everyone seems to assume I take pleasure in.”
Ilmarë slowed her pace and looked closely at Ereinion when she caught the hint of resentment in his voice.
“And would they be wrong in that assumption?”
“There is a rather dramatic difference in taking pleasure in something and having no choice but to become accustomed to it. Come now, the morning room is just through here.” Ereinion’s hurried tone showed he did not wish to pursue the conversation and so Ilmarë left it alone.
She followed Ereinion through the large dining room with long tables of dark wood on the floor and crystal chandeliers draped across the ceiling. They crossed the room and he opened the door to what he called the morning room. After the dark of the dining room, it seemed especially airy and welcoming. Beacons of morning sun streamed through the windows and were made all the brighter by the white floors and walls. Ereinion showed her to the table in the center of the room.
No sooner had they sat than Haleth backed her way through a door on the far side of the room with a plate in each hand. Before the door swung closed Ilmarë saw into the room beyond where the kitchen help went about their morning tasks.
“Good morning to you, dear,” Haleth said as she sat a plate in front of Ilmarë and then Ereinion. “How was your first night…did you sleep well?”
Ilmarë nodded and started to speak, but was not unduly surprised when she was interrupted by Haleth waving her hands toward the plates.
“The two of you eat up now, before it gets cold.” Haleth retrieved a pitcher from a nearby serving table and took to filling their glasses.
Ereinion watched her with an amused smile. “I must say, Haleth, you look younger and more beautiful with each passing day.”
Haleth gave him a small ‘hmmph’ and after the glasses were filled she rested a hand on Ilmarë’s shoulder.
“Now there’s a lesson to be had here, Miss Ilmarë. It’s when people start telling you how young you look that you know you’re getting old.”
Ilmarë raised her napkin in front of her mouth to hide the grin and Ereinion’s look of indignance clearly tickled Haleth. She laughed out loud and hurried over to plant a kiss on his cheek.
“Be careful of this one,” Haleth said as she fondly patted Ereinion’s shoulder. “He’s got a silver tongue and shows no shame in using it to get his way. Master Ereinion loves to talk, to be sure. He’d talk to a tree if he thought it would listen.”
Haleth’s last comment was thrown over her shoulder as she pushed through the swinging door back into the kitchen. Ereinion made sure Haleth was well out of hearing distance before he spoke.
“I lack the bravery needed to state the obvious to Haleth, even if she could remain quiet long enough to listen. In all fairness, I have yet to see her talking to a tree.” Ereinion considered this for a moment and added, “Yet, there was an occasion when I witnessed her yelling at a piece of firewood.”
Haleth shouldered her way through the door again and Ereinion whispered. “We will have to finish this discussion another time.”
Ereinion’s comment drew a very un-ladylike snort from Ilmarë – she did not think to hide her amusement. He shot her a warning glance, and Ilmarë focused on her food and tried to keep a straight face, but Haleth paid no attention. She had placed a tray of fruit on the table, picked up a piece and began slicing it, then resumed her monologue as though she had never left the room.
“Master Elrond, on the other hand…he’s an altogether different matter. So quiet and polite - hardly says a word. Hard to get that one to talk, I’ll tell you that right now. Don’t know if talking to him could even be called a conversation seeing’s how I have to stop every so often and give him a close look…just to make sure he’s still listening. Poor dear, he always seems so sad.” Her mouth turned down in a regretful frown and she shook her head.
“That’s a true shame, that is. He’s got a lovely smile when he shows it.” Haleth stopped in mid-ramble. Her eyes went wide and she drew in a sharp breath as she looked at Ereinion. “And he sure enough was showing that smile this morning.”
Listening to Haleth had left Ilmarë with a sense of confusion beyond what was normal for someone trying to keep up with the rapid chatter. After a moment’s contemplation she decided that Haleth must not know Elrond very well, for her description sounded nothing at all like him. Although Ereinion did not seem put out by it. In fact, from the way he nodded absently as he ate Ilmarë wondered if he was even paying attention to Haleth. The puzzled tone of Haleth’s voice caught his attention as she handed out the plates of sliced fruit.
“Tell me, have you seen Master Elrond yet this morning?” Ereinion looked up to shake his head. “Well, I saw him. That is, I think it was him. It looked like him, but certainly didn’t behave like him. I was on my way to fetch Miss Ilmarë when I met Master Elrond in the hall and oh was he smiling…smiling, mind you. But he almost put me into a swoon when he spoke first – said good morning and how are you today. It’s like pulling teeth to get him to speak at all, let alone speak first.”
Haleth turned her disbelieving gaze on Ilmarë. “Didn’t you find him overly cheerful this morning, Miss Ilmarë?”
Ilmarë decided this was a perfect opportunity to begin the practice of not letting her face betray her, but discovered it was a difficult thing to keep your face impassive while your mind raced frantically.
Does she know? I am not so simple that I do not realize Elrond’s staying in my room would be frowned upon. Yet Haleth asks that question with no disapproval, so perhaps she does not know…
Ilmarë shook her head trying to appear as though she had no idea what Haleth was referring to, hoping she could trust Haleth to be predictable. It was trust well placed for Haleth resumed her chatter without further ado.
“Hhhmph…fancy that. I told Master Elrond I was on my way to wake you and he asked me not to do that just yet. He reminded me you’d had quite the long day yesterday and could do with a little extra sleep. Said you still seemed tired and I thought he’d just come from seeing you, so I had to agree with him.” Haleth took Ilmarë’s empty plate and gave a long-suffering sigh as she collected Ereinion’s as well.
“I keep forgetting Elves like Master Elrond and Master Ereinion seem to just know things at times.” Haleth carried the plates back to the kitchen and continued her talk, although now it seemed to be more for herself than for Ilmarë or Ereinion.
“Always calling it foresight or some such thing. Well, if you ask me I think it’s all that rummaging around they do in one another’s heads. Makes me happy none of them trouble me with any such nonsense…I’d feel like I was walking around in my slip, with nothing to cover myself.” Her muttering was ended when the door swung shut behind her.
“I am without doubt not brave enough to comment on that remark.” Ereinion had been studying Ilmarë silently during Haleth’s diatribe, and when she did not respond to his teasing his face grew troubled. “Ilmarë?”
She looked up from the table and said, “I am sorry, Ereinion. I still feel slightly tired this morning.”
He nodded his head and stood, then offered his arm to Ilmarë. “We should go now. I need to find Elrond and speak with him before we leave.”
Ilmarë took Ereinion’s arm and they went to the swinging door before leaving, standing in the doorway as Ereinion pushed it open. Inside the kitchen, Haleth was at the sink washing dishes with the help of a woman who was a younger, slimmer version of Haleth. Ereinion introduced her as Adanel, Haleth’s daughter, and thanked them both for the meal. Adanel gave Ilmarë a smile and a bow, which Ilmarë gladly returned.
After exchanging a look with Ereinion, Haleth said, “Miss Ilmarë, Adanel and I will come to your room later this afternoon and help you get ready for dinner.”
Ilmarë looked to Ereinion with a pleading expression, but he only said, “Thank you, Haleth. That is very kind of you.”
The door swung shut behind Ereinion and Ilmarë as they left, and Adanel set her dishrag aside to study her mother with narrowed eyes. “Why will we be doing that? Miss Ilmarë appeared none too happy about the idea so I’m led to believe that it’s not something she asked of you.”
“No, she didn’t…Master Ereinion did. Said Miss Ilmarë could use the advice of other women as to clothes and such. Said she’d been living with Círdan and keeping company with him and his mariners…” Adanel smiled to hear Haleth say the word as though it were a foul name. “Master Ereinion also said her folk who brought her from Númenor were mariners as well. Poor child needs a woman to teach her about keeping herself up. She clearly doesn’t know how to fix that mass of hair and clearly has no decency about wearing proper undergarments…”
Adanel gave her a wary look. “Oh Mother, you don’t plan to…”
Haleth did not take her eyes from the pot she washed as she interrupted her daughter. “It has to be done, Adanel, no two ways about it.”
“Well, I think you’re exaggerating, as you’re prone to do.” Adanel knew it would do no good to argue with her mother. She picked up her dishrag and began to wash again. “It’s not as though she’s some wild woman that needs taming. I’ve never seen a woman of Númenor before. Miss Ilmarë strikes me as quite beautiful, but she also seems quite nice.”
Haleth nodded in agreement. “That she is, child…that she is. But we’ll have to help her get beyond that shy nature of hers. She’s quiet as a mouse, that girl…I can’t get a word out of her.”
Ilmarë walked beside Ereinion in silent thought, her eyes fixed on the marble floor of the hall. Thinking of seeing Elrond was beginning to make her more nervous than excited. Doubt had begun a stealthy campaign, whispering in her ear that perhaps Elrond’s absence was for a reason. Avoidance could be that reason. There are times when things bathed in moonlight stir the heart and the soul, yet when the rational light of morning melts the silver spell those same things appear ill conceived and regrettable. The thought of that possibility was more upsetting than Ilmarë cared to acknowledge. Not even Haleth’s talk of Elrond’s unusually cheerful disposition did much to ease her worry. When they had nearly walked the length of the hall, Ereinion cleared his throat.
“I hope my earlier words to you were not in vain, Ilmarë. You have no need to mislead me in any matter. Having reminded you of that, is there something you would like to share with me about last night? Your mood is changed now, and if you would tell me what troubles you perhaps I could help.”
“Thank you, Ereinion, but there is nothing to share.” She raised her head in time to see his skeptical look and gave his arm beneath her hand a squeeze. “I am not trying to mislead you…it is only that I do not wish to discuss it at the moment.” They had reached another set of heavy, carved doors located not too far from the stairwell.
“Later, then. We have all day.” Ereinion reached for the door handle, but the door swung open before he could grasp it.
Elrond had been standing in the study, near the doors leading outside. The tower guards had begun arriving for their morning’s duties, and the path they used passed just beyond the glass-paned doors. Elrond watched the Elves walk by on their way to the tower, his arms crossed and nodding to those who waved to him in greeting.
He heard the approaching footsteps in the hall and hurried across the room, filling his chest with a deep breath before opening the door. Ereinion gave his usual good morning greeting, which Elrond returned before resting his eyes on Ilmarë.
There was something about the blue of her dress, in Elrond’s opinion, that brought out the beauty in all her features – the golden shade of her skin, the dark grey of her eyes, the black mass of hair that fell down her shoulders and arms. Or perhaps it was something else that colored his vision: the memory of Ilmarë sleeping in his arms and her soft hair beneath his fingers as he moved it away from her face. Elrond was unsure exactly how long he had watched her that morning before finally climbing out of bed, taking care not to wake her. His sense of contentment stayed with him as he cleaned up and dressed, and came downstairs.
Had he stopped to think about it, Elrond might have been struck by the novelty of that feeling for him. Moments of contentment had been scarce in his life since his brother’s departure. But he had not thought of that; instead, he had spent the morning marking each moment until he saw her again. Little else had entered his mind.
Here she was at last and Elrond wanted nothing more than to take her in his arms and kiss away the nervous worry on her face. But it was not possible with Ereinion there. Even now Ereinion watched him closely, as though waiting for something…. It suddenly occurred to Elrond that he was blocking their entrance into the study. He moved aside with a quick apology and then closed the door behind them.
“Good morning, Ilmarë.” He stood close to her and his deep voice sent a tremor down her back that collected in the base of her spine then sent its tendrils out into her stomach. The almost unnoticeable reaction did not escape Elrond’s attention and could not help but add, “I trust you slept well?”
A warm sensation crept along her neck. Ilmarë did not know the cause, but it quickly spread to her face. When she put her hand against her cheek she found the skin to be warm to the touch. She offered Elrond a small smile and nodded, then looked at the floor hoping to hide her confusion. Ereinion wore no smile; his expression had grown darker as Elrond’s had grown more amused. Now Ereinion frowned as he studied Elrond closely.
“You seem to be in unusually good spirits this morning, Elrond. I take it that the remainder of your evening was pleasant after you left us in the study?”
Ereinion’s frown escaped Elrond’s normally vigilant attention for it was focused on Ilmarë and on trying to find some excuse for the two of them to leave the room.
“Yes, it was, Ereinion…highly pleasant, in fact. Thank you for asking.”
Elrond’s excuse presented itself in the form of a loud knock on one of the outer doors, although it was Ereinion who would leave and not the two of them. Following the knock, one of the doors opened and a uniformed guard stepped in. He saw Ereinion and bowed politely.
“Good morning, my lord,” the guard said. “The Captain-General apologizes for the imposition, but he has received a message from East and asks if you would be kind enough to come speak with him in the tower.”
Ereinion looked at Ilmarë and Elrond. He was not pleased with leaving them alone but there was nothing to be done about it. He sighed and pulled his arm from Ilmarë’s grasp.
“You will have to excuse me, Ilmarë. Ruselion is the commander of my armies and he does not like to leave the tower once his watch has begun. I will not be long. I am certain Elrond will have no objections to keeping you company in the mean time.” With a final look for each of them, Ereinion signaled the guard to follow him outside.
Once they were alone, Ilmarë was at a loss for words. She glanced at Elrond then let her eyes wander around the room. As before, she found it was very hard to keep the worry that occupied her mind from showing on her face.
“Ilmarë, is something wrong?” Elrond sounded concerned but Ilmarë still could not bring herself to look at him.
“No…at least I hope there is not.” Unable to wait any longer to know, she blurted, “You left this morning without waking me. I feared you did not wish to see me…that upon awakening you came to regret what happened between us last night.”
“From the look on your face just now, I feared it was you who had doubts.” He closed the distance between them and waited for Ilmarë to lift her eyes. “I did have regrets this morning, but only because I wished to let you sleep and had to leave you.”
Ilmarë held her breath as he raised his hand and eased it beneath her hair to rest it gently on her neck. He pulled her closer and lowered his head, but Elrond hesitated. It occurred to him that someone could come into the room or walk by outside and there was not much privacy to be had. But Ilmarë had no such reservations; she leaned forward to meet his mouth before he could pull away. Feeling the warmth of his lips on hers, Ilmarë’s arms went around his neck and a groan of both relief and satisfaction rushed out of her.
Elrond’s concerns of being caught were forgotten, erased from his mind by Ilmarë’s impatient claim on his mouth. He returned the kiss with greater fervor than he intended, yet to touch her again made the mere hours he had been without her seem an unbearable length of time. She opened her mouth to his seeking tongue, and Elrond felt Ilmarë move her hands to his shoulders.
She was curious as to what was beneath Elrond’s clothing – the look and the feel of his body. He had been allowed to see and touch her in a state of undress but she had been too overwhelmed to think about doing the same. Ilmarë began to run her hands over his shoulders, lightly caressing the material of his shirt. Elrond reacted favorably, tightening his hand on her neck and delving his tongue deeper into her mouth, and she let her hands roam, hesitantly at first but with ever-increasing forwardness, tracing the solid lines of his chest and arms. Elrond allowed himself to enjoy her touch until his indulgence of the moment became an endurance of his will. Reluctantly, he ended the kiss and gathered Ilmarë in his arms to hold her tight against him.
“I regretted not being able to do that this morning,” Elrond said close to her ear as he rubbed his cheek against hers, “and I regretted leaving your bed, but I regret nothing else.”
“I am sorry, Elrond, I should have had more trust in you. I had no reason to doubt your word. It is strange - although I have not even known you a full day, I find myself at ease with you, as though I had known you for much longer.” Ilmarë remembered Haleth’s words and frowned. “Haleth said something this morning and I found it curious.”
A short laugh escaped Elrond and he said, “Curious is an apt way of describing almost everything Haleth says.”
“I am quite serious, Elrond. She spoke of you, yet what she said made no sense to me.”
Elrond sighed and loosened his hold on Ilmarë enough that he could lean back to look at her. It took little deduction on his part to guess what Haleth had said, and this meant discussing things he was not certain yet if he wished to discuss. But there seemed to be little alternative at the moment.
“What was it that she told you, Ilmarë?”
“Well, first she spoke of meeting you in the hall this morning and your cheerful mood. I could not understand her surprise finding you happy and smiling, for you have smiled frequently in the short time I have known you.”
Ilmarë paused to run her hand along his cheek before continuing. “Then she spoke of you as being quiet and reserved, and even sad. I had come to the conclusion that Haleth simply did not know you well until I saw that Ereinion did not seem unduly concerned by what she was saying. After this I began to weigh the possibility that perhaps it was I who did not know you well and my worries began. Is there any truth to what she says?”
Elrond looked toward the windows and continued to look away as he spoke. “How I wish I were bound to a promise like yours, Ilmarë. That I could tell you nothing of my past, or myself, and your knowledge of me would begin with the moment we met. But I am not given that advantage.” He looked into Ilmarë’s eyes and gave her a wan smile.
“What Haleth says is true. It is most likely the description that would be given of me by any whom you chose to ask. Even Ereinion, and I am closer to him than I am to any other in my life. It has been this way since… well, for a very long time.”
Elrond struggled to find a way to explain himself and Ilmarë could see how difficult it was for him. She wanted to tell him he did not have to continue but some selfish part of her also wanted to know the truth. That selfishness shifted to remorse when she saw the pain in his eyes.
“There is a loneliness within me…a feeling of isolation I have been allowed no escape from…not until you turned your eyes toward me there by the water. You were as the sun, pushing away the shroud of night and revealing to me that which had been kept in twilight.”
Elrond shook his head as he looked away. “I lack the eloquence Ereinion has to speak of such things – my words sound foolish and contrived.”
“No, Elrond…” It took a great deal of effort for Ilmarë to force the words from her tightening throat.
“Your words are beautiful, made all the more beautiful for me because you speak them. I cannot imagine what things you would lacking to speak of.”
“Things such as what I feel for you.” He turned back to Ilmarë and what he saw on her face gave him impetus to confess. “Things such as…love.” He shifted uncomfortably at the admission. “I did not speak of love to you last night because I do not know how. What I feel for you is something I am not prepared for and I find it very unsettling.”
“I understand, Elrond. You do not need to speak of it further.” Ilmarë ran her hand across his cheek again. “I know nothing of these feelings, but I know their pull on my heart is strong. I am content just to be near you, to enjoy your touch and your presence for now. We can wait to speak of these things until you are ready. Yet even as you made a promise to me, there is one I will make to you now: you will not know loneliness again, Elrond, I will not allow it.”
Elrond had no words for her, instead he wrapped her in a tight embrace, her head resting against his chest and his against her hair. It was in this way that Ereinion found them upon his return. He stood on the stone path and watched them through the window, his eyes moving from Elrond’s face to Ilmarë’s, both of them with their eyes closed and resting contentedly against the other.
Ereinion walked away from the mansion. His walk did not take him far, only to a low stone wall that bordered the yard; beyond it, the land fell away into cliffs. The harbor was visible below and dockworkers and mariners could be seen preparing for the day ahead. Though Ereinion stared in their direction, he was oblivious to the distant figures going about their daily chores. A stray gulf wind trailed the scent of water and morning mist across his face and he closed his eyes as he caught it and breathed it in deeply. It rid his mind of some of the pain and disappointment that filled it, enough that Ereinion realized there was really no decision to be made. It had already been decided. Lines of regret marred his brow and as he accepted what must be done his head bowed with the weight of his resignation.
He returned to the house and this time Ereinion did not pause to look in first. He cleared his throat as he opened the door. When he looked up, Elrond and Ilmarë had moved away from each other but still stood close.
With a stiff smile, Ereinion said, “I am afraid I must forgo my plans with you today, Ilmarë. Something unexpected has come up and it would be better if Elrond accompanied you instead.” He turned to Elrond. “I had intended to show Ilmarë the house and grounds, and then take her around the city. Would you mind?”
Elrond studied Ereinion’s face, trying to assess the change in his friend’s mood. Though Ereinion was doing his best to hide it, Elrond knew something troubled him.
“I do not mind, Ereinion. If you wish, I can stay and help you with what needs to be done. Then you could accompany us as well.”
“No, Elrond, I can do this alone. It is best if you go and I stay.” Let us leave it at that, my friend
was the silent message he sent.
Elrond held his gaze for a moment longer, then nodded. “If that is what you wish.”
“Ereinion, I can wait to be shown the city and the grounds. I would prefer to stay. I do not want to leave you here alone.” Ilmarë did not understand what had brought on this sudden somber mood, but the feeling that she had somehow done something wrong gnawed at her.
“For you to remain indoors with me would be a waste of a beautiful day and a beautiful woman. Go and enjoy yourselves. I will be here when you return.” He smiled at her, but was all too aware that he was unable to appear as cheerful as he sounded. Ereinion turned his back to Elrond and Ilmarë and walked across the room toward his desk. “But do not forget that Haleth will be waiting in your room to help you dress for dinner. Elrond will see to it that you return on time.”
“Come, Ilmarë…the morning is still cool and you will need a cloak,” Elrond said, placing his hand on Ilmarë’s back. “We should be on our way. Good day, Ereinion.”
Ilmarë allowed Elrond to lead her from the room, and she waved at Ereinion before walking through the door. Ereinion sat down and gave them a distracted wave in return, directing his attention to the papers on his desk. When the door had closed and he was alone, Ereinion flung the papers back onto the desk and turned in his chair to stare absently out the window.
I have no one to blame but myself. It is fortunate that I am more capable of ruling a kingdom than I am at handling my personal affairs. I should have paid heed to my instincts and gone to Harlond instead of sending Elrond.
The corners of his mouth turned up in what could have been considered a smile were it not for the regret that filled his eyes. And I should have allowed Haleth to walk into the study last night and find Ilmarë in my arms.
Ereinion picked the papers up from his desk again and did his best to focus on the words, trying to rid himself of the memory of holding Ilmarë in his arms and the sight of Elrond holding her in his.
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.