The question lingered in Canohando's ears, and he shook his head as if he could whisk it away like a bothersome insect. One of his braids whipped across his face.
They are getting too long, he thought. An enemy could grab my hair and hold me. He drew his knife, even as he walked, and hacked off the offending braid. He felt for the others and treated them in like manner, then tucked the severed plaits into his belt. Burn them later. Even in Rivendell, I will not leave them for anyone to find, and work some evil against me.
Even in Rivendell. Where in Rivendell? Celeborn had hardly finished speaking when Malawen sprang up and fled. Her little strangled squeak, like the death-cry of some small animal, stuck in the Orc's memory along with the wizard's question. If I do not find her, that cry will bring me down, like a barbed arrowhead that works inward...
Then glory burst in his mind again: I am called to Valinor! He laughed softly. What will the Queen's Brother say? And the Valar: with my own eyes I shall see them... That was not a thought for laughter; that was fearsome. A clean fear, a purifying fire: though they melt me like iron, it were a blessed forging.
And if she will not go? He shivered. The sun had gone down and it was chilly under the trees. He had not followed her at once; he had thought she would be near-by, huddled in tears, and he had taken time to find out from Celeborn exactly when he meant to sail, and how to find the Havens.
"I must go to the Shire," he had said. "I promised the Lady, and anyway I will not leave these shores without seeing my brother's land. Then –" He had not finished the sentence, but he thought his face spoke for him. He had felt as if he could leap over the treetops and run along the snowy mountain peaks, more instant than the sun, a living flame of joy.
But now he was cold. After he had searched a while and not found her, he had gone back to Elrond's refuge to pick up her trail, but she was dainty-footed as a moth and left small sign of her passing.
I have lost my skill, such as it was, he thought. I would I had Lash here to help me; he could track an ant across a stony ridge. He kept on as the light failed, bent over nearly double, seeking some trace of her. Elfling, do not hide from me, he begged silently. Even the Shining Land would be desert without you.
"If you put your face any nearer the ground, you will scrape your forehead," said a voice behind him. He spun around and she was there, perched on a branch above his head.
"Elfling –!" Before he could pull himself into the tree she had flung herself out of it, into his arms. Her leap took him by surprise and he staggered, barely keeping his balance, but not letting her slip out of his grasp.
"Melethril…" He sat down carefully, trembling as if he had taken a fever, and settled her in his lap. "Elfling, do not run from me, whatever troubles you. When I could not find you –" He ran his hands over her arms and shoulders, kissing her forehead and eyes before he reached her mouth.
"What have you done to your hair?" she said when she could speak. Then without a pause she added bitterly, "Why did you come after me? You will leave and go to Valinor, with all these great ones."
His heart was a lump of stone, and twice as big as it should be. "Will you not come with me, Elfling? Together we will tread the shores of the Bright Country, together dwell where all is peace and light. I do not care for any 'great ones,' melethril, but I would know that happiness, with you."
"I could not bear it." She reached up to thrust her hands into his hair, teasing out the tangles and drawing out the strands so they coiled tightly around her fingers. "It's curly. I didn't know that. You see how they look at me, melethron, all of them here. It was not only the dark Elves from Eryn Lasgalen. Galadriel herself, when she knew what I had done –"
"Celeborn calls you sunshine, and sings while you dance," the Orc interrupted.
"I would not dance in Valinor, I would hide under a rock! It were better if those marauders had killed me, than leave me pregnant and deformed – I am half-Orc myself now! You said yourself that I did what Orc mothers do."
He bent his head to her exploring fingers, still playing with his hair, kissing her white shoulder where her garment was pulled askew, tightening his arms around her. She gasped for breath and hastily he loosened his hold.
"Elfling, that is madness. You did one evil deed, only the one, because you suffered more than you could bear. And that babe you drowned…" He fought for control of his voice; even when she had told the story, he had felt the child's death in his own body, the water rushing black and cold into air-starved lungs.
"You did not mean it for mercy, but yet it may have been. If he had grown up among Elves, hated for what he was, despised for his grey skin…" We will be among the Elves in Valinor, he thought suddenly. Will we have children there?
"It was not mercy; I was hiding my shame. It was murder, and he was my baby—"
He snuggled her more closely against him. "Very well, it was murder. But I have done the same, times beyond counting, starting with my brother! You bear one little scar, Elfling, but half my body is scarred by whip and fire, and in our hearts it is the same: we both know the Shadow, but you have felt the touch of it, no more than that, and I carried it within me. Only when my runt stood by me was I able to cast it out, and even now I dare not let my guard down, lest it fasten on me again. If they will open Valinor for me, how much more for you, who were born to it! For me it is a gift beyond price, but to you it rightfully belongs."
She sighed, leaning back in his arms. "You are consolation to them, seeing an Orc come home. I am a reproach. It was by my own action that I fell, not anything the Dark Lord did. I would not have been captured, except that I would not obey. We were safe in Caras Galadhon, and I slipped out to find a trinket I dropped as we fled from home…"
"What was it?"
She shrugged impatiently. "A bit of jewelry. It doesn't matter. I never found it, but they found me, the Orcs did, and my father died rescuing me, and he was not alone. We lost four strong warriors, bringing back a thankless imp who carried a monster in her belly."
She stopped suddenly and hugged him tight around the waist. "I'm sorry, love! But that is how I saw it, and there were those who told me I was right. For my wicked vanity, I cost four lives. After that I had no reason to be vain, scarred and stunted as I was. And they were glad to be rid of my child, but still aghast at what I did."
Canohando did not say anything.
"And now I add to everything else, that you are given passage to the West, and I will make you go alone," she said, and he groaned.
"How can I sail without you, Elfling? Celeborn named you well: you are my light."
"No!" she cried. "Whoever heard of an Orc granted entrance to Valinor – you cannot give that up, when you so desire it!"
But he was wrestling with a question he would not speak aloud: what would become of her, if he left her behind? The Shadow will not take her if she is with me; I will drive it off! No, that was arrogance; he did not have such power. But she loved him, and love was her protection. If she were alone…
Forlorn and angry, as she was when he first saw her. In Valinor itself I would grieve to think of her. I would beg to return, to comfort her.
He shifted her off his knees and got to his feet, pulling her up with him. "We will be together, though we wander homeless for a thousand years. But tonight we will go back to Elrond's House, and sleep in a bed while we have one. Come, melethril."
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.