1. Chapter 1
Elves lived there then. They hadn't been there long, for the river-carven cleft between the forested ridges was a welter of tents and other temporary shelters of brush and sapling. The only sign of permanency in this maelstrom of disorganization was a bathhouse of logs and a crude outline pegged for the foundation of a house to be built when time permitted. Piles of stones set here and there indicated that the work had begun, though if any had thought to ask for details of the finished product he would have been met with blank stares. Truly, haste had been their only constant in the past months.
Heads popped from tent flaps as the smell grew stronger and acquired complexity. Not only the death smell, but notes of old sweat, rotten fish, and other layers of more indefinable foulness mingled and invaded the air. What had been a murmur rose to a babble, hands gesturing to the North, when a horse and rider appeared at the ridge above the falls.
The horse was unlike the few they had salvaged from war. It was far taller, with a hawk-like profile much different from the dish-faced, silk-skinned animals they rode. Its coat was a curious color; deep red with white hairs sprinkled evenly throughout, like frost on grass, and it's clean, hard limbs were white past knees and hocks. Almost the whole front half of its head was white, and its large, intelligent eyes were blue.
One thing only could be attributed to the rider, apart from the smell, and that was boldness. Not knowing or caring what kind of encampment this was, the rider unhesitatingly guided the horse forward into the clearing. No real judgement could be made as to the species or sex of the rider, muffled to the eyes in primitively tanned furs against the chill, though it might be guessed that it was an Elf, as the horse bore no saddle or bridle. The bow and quiver were decidedly of Mannish make, the former wrought of horn, sinew and horsehair, the latter of the boned and hollowed head of a strange variety of deer, hung from the shoulder by a strap of it's own skin. Its eyes, mouth and nostils were sewn shut and formed a repository for flint arrowheads and tools, while the animal's neck held arrows shorn of dark wood and fletched narrowly with white feathers.
"Foddo-chel-ck! ck!" a gritty female voice muttered, as if in answer to their unspoken questions. "Fodd-d-do-chel! Ck! Chchchch!" Sounds like that of a clucking bird accompanied the words. The eyes behind the rim of fur flickered to and fro as if searching for something or someone, and nothing of interest had as yet drawn her gaze or arrested her progress though many had gathered to watch her pass.
For, underneath the filth and despite the strange speech, there was an undeniable look of nobility about her. She bore herself erect. When she pulled back the hood of the strangely cut fur garment, there was a collective gasp, for what appeared to be Noldorin blood showed clearly in the chiseled cheekbones, prominent despite the roundness of her face. Her matted hair was dark russet, with rough braids hanging before each flared ear and the rest hanging in shaggy, uneven lengths. Her nose was a bit convex, but small, and her eyes, though grey, had an undertone of green like the spruce-clad ridges towering above the valley. She was shorter and heavier than any Noldo, however, and her skin had a rosy hue strange for any Elf.
She paused perforce, as one of the larger tents impeded her. At that moment raised voices came from within and a tall figure emerged from it, stupid with sleep, tying his long dark hair into a queue. His evening-grey eyes widened and his fine nose narrowed at the same instant the stench hit him full force. He looked up in astonishment.
Elbereth! he thought, does she carry a rotted carcass behind her? At the same moment he was struck again. I have seen that face before.
She met his eyes with a spark in her own, and what might have been called a smile had it lasted longer than a heartbeat.
"Seen me? I think not." Her voice was deep and whispery, as if disused, and the accent was rolling and foreign, and at the same time strangely familiar. Only the Green Elves ever clacked and chirruped in that squirrellike way, but the Laiquendi did not hunt, and seldom if ever used horses. And, he thought, his eyes watering, they are a cleanly folk.
She allowed a corner of her mouth to twitch upward a second time.
"You'd stink too, if you lived on fish and washed in bear fat a t'ousand year. Nothing but snow up there."
He was speechless. Could she read his mind?
She laughed then, a dry sound, but her eyes twinkled. She tapped her head and shook it, then circled her face with a graceful motion. "Face gives your thought away." Without waiting for him to ask, she said, "Fish go away, bear too. Everybody starve or go away. So I come back." She looked around her."You have food, maybe?"
He signaled to one of his aides to bring food, and discreetly thumbed toward the bathhouse where another nodded and went inside to stoke the fire.
She dismounted, and for a brief moment the smell was worse. She looked around her at the tents, the piles of stones, and at last at the curious Elves who had gathered, still at a healthy distance upwind. She turned back to this one who was apparently chief of his tribe, and bowed with surprising formality.
"I am Readfah. Mother's people were Men of the North, yellow hairs with many horses. Father elf. Both dead long time now." She peered closely at him for a long, uncomfortable moment, meeting his eyes with no pretense to subtlety.
"You half and half too, eh?"
Stunned, he could do nothing but nod. He looked around him helplessly, as if expecting someone to come to his rescue, but at last he turned back to her, finding his manners.
"I am Elrond."
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.