25. Chapter Twenty-Five
Elladan snuck into the house, heading for the far corner of the room and the bed. He found Estel soundly sleeping, his body wrapped around Laeriel's right side, his head resting against the top of hers. The blankets had fallen from his shoulders and he reached out to pull them up.
The man looked so much like the young boy he had help raise when he slept. Elladan knew that Estel would not like to hear how young he seemed whilst asleep. He was a man now, had been for some time. But to an elf, he was still but a child. It was hard not to think of him like that, especially when he looked so vulnerable, as he did now.
Sighing softly, Elladan placed a gentle hand to Laeriel's brow. Cool to the touch. Estel had been right. She had needed nothing more than his body to share the burning fever, to pull the fiery heat from her skin. He was indeed a mighty healer.
Quietly, he slipped from the house, closing the door softly behind him. The two of them needed rest now, more than anything else. He and Ro could keep watch, making sure no one disturbed them.
Ivorwen approached the small house, frowning when the twins of Elrond blocked her path. She set the basket of provisions at her feet and placed her hands on her hips.
"You will allow me to pass," she said, tapping her foot impatiently. She was in no mood to brook their interference.
"I am sorry, my lady. You can not enter. Young Thurin is very ill," Elrohir said, stepping in front of Ivorwen.
"Elrohir, if you know what is good for you, you will step aside!"
"We can not allow you access, Lady Ivorwen. Estel has given orders to not be disturbed."
"Elladan, Strider is my grandson. I will not be kept from him when I know I can help. I know their secret," she hissed, her face close to his. "Get out of my way."
Elladan stepped aside as she bent to retrieve her basket. She pushed by the twins and entered the house, closing the door behind her.
"A mother bear would be less threatening," Ro said, clasping his brother on the shoulder.
Elladan nodded his head in agreement. He was thankful that he was not the one that had to face Ivorwen's wrath.
Ivorwen stepped into the kitchen of the small home, the door at her back closed tightly to unwanted glances. She looked into the far left back corner of the house and found her grandson and Laeriel sleeping soundly in the big bed. To her immediate left, the fire in the grate burned low and two chairs graced the braided rug, inviting one to sit.
Sighing, she went to work, unpacking the basket she had brought. Strider would need sustenance if he was to take care of Laeriel, and she would need food to speed her healing. Although she did not approve of their secret love, she was bound by her vow to protect Laeriel's secret.
She crossed the small one room cabin to the grate and poked the fire, stirring the embers before placing another log on the stack of ashes. It was chilly in the room, the autumn air this early in the morning cool enough to be able to see one's breath.
This task complete, she poured water from the bucket into a pot. She placed the pot on the wrought iron arm at the fire and waited for it to boil. Once the water had boiled she steeped tea leaves and chamomile flowers for a healing brew. In another pot, she threw in some beef and water, making a weak broth for Laeriel.
Strider would need more sustenance than just broth and tea, so she set about making eggs and sausages for him. Soon food smells began to waft through the small house. She heard slight stirring from the bed and smiled. Knowing that food was only second to rest for the wounded, Ivorwen set the small table.
Strider opened his eyes slowly, catching sight of Laeriel as the sleep cleared from his grey-green irises. There was a healthy blush to her cheeks and when he brushed the auburn tresses from her forehead, he found no trace of the burning heat that had been present last night. Sighing in relief, he rolled away from her and stretched, careful not to disturb her sleep. As he did, the blanket fell to his waist.
"Good morning, grandson," Ivorwen said, bringing him a cup of steaming tea.
"Grandmother! I…um…I…well…" he cried, sitting up, causing the blankets to fall precariously.
"I have seen you in the all together before, my grandson."
"Not in many years!" he cried, pulling the blankets back up over his nakedness.
"Well, who did you think was here, preparing a meal for you and your…um…lady friend?" she asked with a raised eyebrow. "Did you think the warrior sons of Elrond would fix you eggs and sausage?"
"Grandmother, please!" he cried, wishing she would leave the bedside.
"Oh, very well. Take your tea," she said, handing it to him.
He fumbled with the cup and blankets, trying to stay covered and not spill the hot liquid on his unprotected groin area. When the cup settled back on the saucer and the blankets were positioned to cover him, he leaned back against the headboard. The tea smelled wonderful and tasted just as good.
"Thank you, grandmother. The tea is wonderful."
"And your…Laeriel, how is she?"
Strider sighed. Laeriel was his comrade, his friend, his lover. Why could his grandmother not accept this? "The fever is gone. She is sleeping."
"Well, dress and come eat. I will keep my back turned so you may keep your dignity."
Strider slipped from the warm bed, setting the cup and saucer on the bedside table. He pulled on his breeches and shirt before padding barefoot to the table. He pulled the chair out and sat down just as Ivorwen placed a full plate of food in front of him.
"You know, my brothers were outside for a reason," he said, taking a bite of the savory sausage.
"I can take my breakfast and go, young man!"
"That's not what I meant…I just wanted to protect her, while she heals. They are there to protect her secret. And mine."
"And I can't be trusted to protect you?" she asked, sitting beside him.
"I know you will protect me, but I need to protect her. I love her grandmother."
Ivorwen stared at him and saw in his eyes the same love, devotion, wants and desires that she had seen in Gilraen's eyes when she had looked upon Arathorn. How could she stamp on his heart, when she could see his mother's life in his grey-green eyes?
Strider sat in a chair he had dragged to the bedside, watching Laeriel sleep. His grandmother had cleaned up and left the small home, the broth and tea waiting to be warmed up when Laeriel woke. They had talked before she had gone. She had given her word that she would protect Laeriel, even if she had to lie to the council to do it.
Laeriel. What was he going to do about her? He couldn't follow her out on every patrol, he couldn't order her to stay in the village and he couldn't risk losing her to an Orc blade or arrow. There had to be something he could do, someway he could protect her.
He heard her moan lightly, saw the slight frown mar her feminine features. She was beautiful. How could he have ever thought she was a man? Leaning toward the bed, he rested his elbows on his knees, his chin on his clasped hands.
"Laeriel? Open your eyes, my love…" he whispered, needing to see the azure of her eyes staring up at him.
Her eyelids fluttered, the thick lashes dancing upon her cheeks, and then she opened her eyes. Strider sighed in relief. He had been so afraid that somehow he had harmed her, possibly overdosed her with the herbs that he had told his brother to prepare.
"Strider?" she questioned, reaching her right hand out to take one of his from under his chin.
"I am here, my love. It seems you need someone to protect your blind side. This is the second time I have had to stitch you up."
"You are good to have around…" she whispered, closing her eyes again. "So…tired…"
Strider leaned over and kissed her lips gently. He placed her hand on the bed and returned to his seat. "Sleep. I will keep watch over you."
Laeriel sighed softly and fell back into a deep sleep. His grandmother had been right. Sleep was the best thing for her, now that the fever had broken. She would be hungry when she woke and the broth and tea would be needed. For now, though, all she needed was sleep.
Arwen stared at Estel in disbelief. She could not believe her ears, though she knew that she had heard him rightly. She stood and stepped in front of him, halting his agitated pacing.
"My brothers knew of this woman?" she questioned him, tears in her eyes. "They knew from nearly the beginning and neither of them told me about her? They knew about the two of you and your love affair? Why would they not tell me? Did they not love me as I loved them?" she asked, tears slipping silently down her cheeks.
Why had they not told her of the warrior woman that had stolen away Estel's heart? Why had he not told her? He had pledged to her his troth on Cerin Amroth, nearly thirty years after he had left Imladris, and found his Laeriel. Why had he not told her then of his love for this other woman?
"They did not tell you because I begged them not to. I did not want to hurt you with things that no longer mattered. Things that did not and could not come between us," he told her, turning away from her, pain in his eyes.
"Estel, you loved this woman. Made love to her, cherished her, and cleaved her to your breast. How could she not come between us then or now?" she asked, reaching out to touch his shoulder.
"Because she is dead, Arwen!" he yelled, spinning on his heel to face her, his hands grabbing at her arms.
Arwen stared at him, shock and horror shining in her eyes. She had never seen him like this, so hurt and pained.
"She can not come between us, because she is gone from this world…" he whispered, tears spilling down his cheeks.
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.