3. Chapter 3
- Chapter 3 -
Elrohir's boots squelched as he walked, every step leaving a puddle of muddy water on the ground of floors of the Last Homely House. He imagined, half amused, half horrified, the reaction of his father's chief advisor, the dignified Erestor. The elf lord, long since gone along with Elrond to the Undying Lands, had considered it an insult to besmirch in any way the beauty of the Halls; a crime that seconded only narrowly to bad treatment of books. But this time, it was not a just punishment that he attempted to avoid; his effort to step lightly was largely spoiled by the wet noise he produced, and he expected Elladan to jump out of every corridor, arms crossed in consternation.
Elrohir had promised to reconsider his feelings. To run them over and over again in his head, to figure out what it was exactly that drew him to the village – and to her. But he was loathe to do so. Somehow it felt wrong, as if his love was a mystery better left unsolved, to be savoured without reservation. It was a feeling so natural, to care; he had felt it from the first instant he had seen the girl, as if a previously unknown part of him had awakened, an organ that he had instantly learned how to use.
Maybe we have spent too much time with the Edain, he thought, remembering his brother Estel. Or Elessar, the name he had been crowned under; the name carved on his grave. Somehow, the noble King of Men would forever remain, in his memory, a mischievous little boy who once used to climb into his bed at night, scared of the darkness of his room.
'Brother.' Elrohir froze, wincing as his boots squeaked in protest; his hand reached into his pocket.
He turned around and smiled sheepishly. 'Elladan.' His brother looked at him with reproach, taking in his damp clothes and disheveled hair. 'By the stars, what happened to you?'
Elrohir grinned. 'I took a swim, brother. The weather's exceptionally warm, haven't you noticed?' He gestured to the night sky outside.
Elladan pursed his lips. 'So you have broken your word.'
Elrohir stifled a surge of annoyance. Nosy ellon, he thought. Why can you not mind your own business? Spinning on his heels, he started to walk towards his rooms, hoping to avoid a confrontation in the open of the Halls. The Last Homely House stood almost empty since its previous lord had taken the road West, but some had remained and, as Gandalf once put it, elves were a curious folk.
He knew too well why Elladan considered his love such a painful subject. His brother missed Arwen as much as he did: their sister had chosen mortality to remain by her beloved's side. Her decision had brought grief to the family, especially to their father, who had already lost – if temporarily – his wife on these shores. Elrond had been forced to choose: sail, and be reunited with Celebrían, or remain in Arda with Arwen, only to watch her wither and die. And when he finally faced his wife… What would he tell her?
Elrohir glanced at his brother, who was a perfect reflection of himself, his brow creased in worry. He wished he could make him understand.
Elladan followed him into the room, and watched sourly as Elrohir discarded the damp garments. 'You promised,' he reminded softly. 'That you would think about it.'
'I did!' exclaimed Elrohir. 'I did think about it, I am thinking about it!' He tossed his tunic impatiently into a corner. 'Elladan, I see no point in thinking it over one more time. My feelings will not change.'
'How can you be so sure?'
His brother sat down on the bed. 'I cannot,' agreed Elrohir. He walked to the window. The valley was peaceful in the night, lit up by a few scarce fires scattered in the darkness like fireflies. The settlement was quiet, unlike the cheerful evenings that used to be held several centuries ago. Too few remained; the time of the elves was gone.
'What would you have me do?' he murmured. 'Sit on my immortality like a dragon on his treasure ? Our time is over. When the last of our race sails, the people will forget us. And life will go on, while we will dwell – forever unchanged – in Valinor, singing the same songs over and over again, living in the past of our glory. Our time is over, brother. We will never be great again.'
'I know.' Elladan sighed. 'Forgive me, brother.' He smiled sadly. 'I am being selfish and stubborn, but you must not blame me. I only seek to keep you alive, to keep you with me.' He followed Elrohir's glance to the valley below. 'I only want my brother to stay with me' he pleaded. 'For us to be a family again, Elrohir. You, me, adar and naneth... Do you not wish to see her ?'
Elrohir closed his eyes. 'Elladan...' He almost felt guilty for choosing a stranger over his own blood, for denying his parents the family reunion for which they had longed for centuries. But that was Elladan's goal exactly. 'Do not play mind games with me, brother,' Elrohir breathed out. 'I will not yield, but I will certainly suffer. Is that what you wish?'
'No.' Elladan's grey eyes were full of sorrow. 'So you have chosen.'
'Yes,' replied Elrohir. 'Though the thought scares me.'
'Then there may still be time to change your mind?' joked his brother, the smile not reaching his eyes. Though his words held no real hope, the mood shifted, and Elrohir smiled in return. Once again, he reached into his pocket, feeling the wilted flowers under his fingers. Her crown, his destiny. Was it not the tradition?
'I suggest you take a bigger care to your treasure, Flower King,' called out Elladan. 'For it is falling apart.' Elrohir glanced to the ground at his feet; indeed, a few pale petals lay on the stone, wrinkled and abused by their rescue from the river. He pulled out the crown, careful to not break the fragile stems. They now wore his imprint, where he had grasped the crown.
'Take me to her,' said Elladan suddenly. Elrohir saw that he had stood, and his eyes were on the small bundle of green. His brother reached out and brushed his fingertips on the precious flowers; Elrohir fought the urge to close his hand. 'Show me,' Elladan said. 'Help me understand.'
Wyn laid out the two coins on the wooden counter: copper and steel, their last treasure until her father got a commission. The first one remained from his last client, a travelling merchant whose horse needed shoeing. The other had been found, to Wyn's greatest surprise, under the larder, during her monthly scrubbing of the small house. If it hadn't been the cottage they had lived in since her birth, the girl would've doubted it even belonged to them, but there it was, shining at her from the dusty floor…
The butcher glanced at the money somewhat skeptically; but he took it, and cut from the carcass the corresponding amount of meat. Wyn felt her mouth watering at the prospect of the meal that she could cook with it. Meat! They had not tasted any for some months now. She had considered sparing the money for harder times; but then times could not get much harder, and she and her father deserved a decent meal. Besides, it could make things easier, if Pa was in a good mood…
She thanked the man and, carefully laying the wrapped-up piece in her basket, she exited the shop.
As she crossed the village green, she saw Nora, one of her friends, hand in hand with her husband Thomas, and felt a pang of envy. Thomas was a baker's apprentice, thin as a wire and with a face full of freckles; but he was a good man, and the older girl seemed happy with him.
Sometimes, Wyn dreamt of a having a husband as well: someone with kind eyes, maybe someone who would make her laugh. She didn't dream of handsome. After all, what would such a man want with her? Wyn didn't fancy herself smart, and her childhood years had taught her that she was anything but pretty. It would only be a matter of time before such a man found in one of the other girls someone closer to his tastes and, no matter how reasonable it would seem, Wyn wouldn't bear the humiliation. She had taken much, over the years, grown herself a skin thicker than leather. But this…
No, she'd be perfectly content with only someone kind enough, who'd take care of her if something happened to her father, who'd want kids and a family, who'd cherish what he had.
Once at home she started preparing the meat, all her thoughts focused on her task so to avoid unpleasant day dreams. She was crippled, damaged, and considered a half-wit, if a good-hearted one. She should not even wish for such things; dreaming would only bring her pain.
She chided herself for those thoughts: after all, she was lucky to be still alive. She had a father who loved her and needed her, a roof above her head and friends. She hadn't been born a Queen, she decided, so she'd better behave accordingly.
The familiar creak of the door indicated that her father was home. She heard him sigh wearily as he sat down on one of their rickety chairs, and bit her lip, bracing herself for the small role she was about to play.
Turning around with a smile, she announced brightly: 'There's meat on the menu! A special treat for a special day; a lucky one, it seems…' With those words she put the pot full of meat stew on the table, and settled down.
Her father shook his head at her enthusiasm. 'My little Wyn,' he smiled, 'Always seeing the good side.'
Wyn forced herself to smile wider, and picked up her spoon. The stew was hot and nourishing, and felt like heaven in the mouth and the stomach. She doubted that any King's table would appeal more to her right then that this simple meal.
Between two spoonfuls she glanced at her father, noting the deep lines of worry and grief etched into the skin of his face, the weariness in his eyes. Gathering her courage, she set down her spoon. 'Pa…' she began, 'I have decided to look for work.'
He glanced at her sharply, probably wondering whether it was just another of her fantasies. She smiled reassuringly and laid her hand on his. 'The money is getting scarce,' she said. 'And I'm loathe to sit at home and watch you do all the work. I'd rather do something useful. But don't worry: I'm not leaving you…' she joked. 'Bessie told me the tavern's in need of help, so I thought I'd try my luck.'
Her father wiped his mouth; he seemed to refuse to look at her. 'Pa?'
The blacksmith sighed. 'Then we will just have to find another way,' he said, his smile strained. 'Won't we?' Affecting cheerfulness, he rose from his seat. 'There's plenty of work elsewhere; I'll think of something, don't you worry.'
'I don't want you to.'
The blacksmith spun around at his daughter's quiet words. Discarding the smile, Wyn rose from her seat and reached out for him, brushing her hand tenderly on his sun-tanned cheek. 'You always take care of me,' she whispered. 'But you can't do it all alone, Pa. And I want to help. Please.' He stiffened, but she embraced him, laying her head on his chest. 'You know there's no other way,' she said.
Reluctantly her father closed his arms around her. 'You are right,' he murmured, his voice laced with guilt and shame. 'As always. Forgive me; I had hoped to spare you this, but it seems I've failed.'
'Don't say that!' Wyn protested. It pained her when he depreciated himself, when he seemed to forget the efforts it cost him to overcome Mum's death and to raise her all by himself. Not once had he blamed the child for his wife's passing, always welcoming her with open arms when she came back home in tears, tired and frightened by the other kids' pranks and taunts.
Pulling herself from the embrace, she pushed up on her tip-toes and kissed his stubble-grown cheek. 'You are a wonderful, marvellous father. Please, don't worry for me!' She smiled encouragingly. 'I promise you, I'll be fine.'
And she really, really hoped she would.
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.