Introductory Author's Note: To new readers coming by for a glance, welcome! To past readers who are wondering when on earth this author is going to get on with it already, welcome back!
Disclaimer / Note on Languages: I'm only playing in Tolkien's sandbox. Any and all Elvish used is borrowed from the Sindarin Dictionary copywritten 1999-2002 by Didier Willis with thanks.
Rating: R for some language, violence, and adult themes. Reader discretion is advised.
Special Mention: Beth lent me a whopping big shovel to dig myself out of the Nether Realm of Writer's Block. I owe her a Silmaril or two in repayment. Special thanks also go to Antares Star and the ladies at the Guiltless Pleasure Publishing forum for their bravery in tackling this monstrosity. For their honest criticism, they have my undying gratitude.
I would that we were, my beloved, white birds on the foam of the sea! We tire of the flame of the meteor, before it can fade and flee; And the flame of the blue star of twilight, hung low on the rim of the sky, Has awakened in our hearts, my beloved, a sadness that may not die.
Imladris, 2510 T.A.
The tremors seized her hands again. Celebrían calmly set her tea down and squeezed the medal in her left hand tight, tight, but that did not alter the vision outside her bedroom window.
The holly tree was dead.
Its berries hung, still and desiccated, like drops of old blood. Glossy leaves shriveled on their stalks. The bark atrophied before her eyes, its silver hue leaching out through the roots. A twisted, ugly thing it seemed now. Something rotten in its core had withered it from the inside out. She stared at it, almost believing that if she did so long enough, she might see some glimmer of life return, some flicker of hope that it would bloom like its male counterpart.
Two taps sounded in her chamber.
Her hands jerked, the medal dropping into her lap. Someone was outside her door. She stared at the brass handle. She had forgotten to lock it. It would do no good to shout, to tell them to go away. They came anyway. They would take her. They would—
The door opened a fraction. "Am I disturbing you?"
"Elrohir." She sank onto a cushion, dizzy and dry-mouthed at the reassuring sight of her firstborn. She cleared her throat. "Not at all. Your company is infrequent as your brother's of late. Stop lingering there and come in properly."
"Are you cold?" He had noticed her shivering. He fetched a wrap from her trunk and draped it over her shoulders before she could answer. "The twilight brings a slight chill with it this eve."
"I had not realized." The lamb's wool brought warmth even if the weft lay a little crooked. Her daughter would make a skillful weaver. She glanced down at her hands, still tightly clasped. They had stilled, blessedly.
Elrohir roved about the room, lighting candles, banking the fire, adjusting the already-neat vases of ferns and forget-me-nots strewn in the corners and on top of her writing desk. He shook his head over the pittance she had nibbled out of her supper.
But when he moved to fasten the casements, she restrained him. "The wind is in the West tonight and quite mild."
His gaze met hers for the first time, and she could see him measuring her words, weighting them with more importance than simple enjoyment of a gentle wind. He left the shutters open.
"You have not eaten much," he observed, lightly reproving.
She summoned a smile. "When a platter is heaped so high, a lady may only make a small indent lest her girdle prove inadequate for its task."
He was not put off. He was too like his father when he did not wish to be stayed from a point. "You need to keep up your strength."
"I slept much today," she said, lifting her chin a little. He would not speak down to her as if she were the child.
Unlike his father, he knew better than to press her but glanced sideways at the four-poster monstrosity, far too wide and lonely for her now that Elrond slept down the hall to give her peace. Or so he said. Its eiderdown was not so much as ruffled. It hadn't been slept in for weeks. To forestall further chiding, she lifted the medal from her lap and held it up for him to see.
Much handling had worn its foliate edges touchstone-smooth, but its artisan had ensured it would withstand the test of time, lacing a touch of copper through the gold-encased mallorn leaf. By habit her fingertips found and traced the talismanic runes writ deep in its surface. The slow, easy movements soothed her.
"Sadro Avorn." Elrohir winced at the words even as he read them.
There was a question behind his averted eyes, in his stiffened shoulders, tight mouth. His hands, as long and fine as his father's, twitched reflexively as if snatching at something he could not quite grasp. She waited.
"Is it numbered among your things to take with you?" he asked at last.
It was not the question she'd expected. If she'd expected anything. From the still-troubled expression on his face, it was not the question he'd intended to ask either.
She answered honestly. "It is not mine to take. Not any longer."
He seemed somewhat mollified by this. "Then, if it be your wish, I shall endeavor to have it returned."
"He will not accept it." She pressed the medal into his palm, closing his fingers about it before he could jerk away. She had not lied to him when she'd said she had kept up her strength. "I wish you to keep it. And remember us both in brighter days."
"I shall remember you without need of such a trinket. I need no reminder of him." He cast the leaf away as if it had scorched his hand. It tinged violently off the salver.
She sat very still for a moment, her empty hands clutching one another tightly. She had forgotten. Mellyrn could not take root here. The climate was too cold and dry. The leaf looked small and bereft against the salver's cold-silver glitter. One delicate corner had caved from the impact of its indelicate landing.
Such mistreatment of a gift would have hurt its giver.
But she could not, dared not think of him. How playfully he had slipped the leaf down her bodice, its pricking chill eased by the press of his palm. The warmth in his eyes unchanged even after she had accepted Elrond's silver band. The memory of him, a dull and constant ache, she had hidden away in a deep and secret grove of her heart after their final parting. There, thick, gold-flowering boughs arced over a dark forest river; where, even without a spring to draw from, it eroded what remained of its banks.
A breeze strayed through the open window.
The Sea. Its salt smell washed the forget-me-not from her lungs. And she knew she was not strong enough any longer to resist its insistent tug. She did not want to. Blindly, she reached out, not caring if her hands trembled.
Warmth engulfed her fingers, and she blinked the wet haze from her vision, tasting brackish spray on her lips. Elrohir knelt beside her couch, both of his hands clasping hers.
"I did not mean to upset you," he whispered, miserably.
She threaded her fingers through his and squeezed, the way she had when he'd been a small child. But he was not a child. Her hands disappeared in his. Chapped, blistered, scoured, nicked. The pads of his fingers alone retained their softness. Nails clean but quick-bitten. Despite her endless admonishments, that habit, alone of his childhood, stuck firmly.
"If only our hearts proved as easy to govern as our words, my son," she murmured, stroking his hair back from his face.
Elrohir looked away. "Perhaps then, words would prove warier. Or hearts more wanton."
She remained by the window long after the door closed behind him and watched the darkness swallow the holly tree.
-Sadro Avorn: Sindarin equivalent of Semper Fi (lit: sadron w/ dropped pronoun suffix for "faithful" and avorn meaning "staying, fast"). The motto of the Lothlórien guard
-Mellyrn: plural of "mallorn," massive, beautiful trees that grow only in Lothlórien
-On Rings: among the Elves, silver rings were betrothal rings, later re-exchanged between the bride and groom for gold
End Author's Notes: Updates may be odd-houred and irregular as I am off to Romania for two years (which has growing Internet service but of the unreliable kind), so I'll ask for your patience and your thoughts while waiting for the next chapter.
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.