"You... do not want to return?" he repeated.
"No," Melpomaen said, "I do not. What purpose is there in it? Shall we return to a life where passion is denied us, and that without our consent? You have persuaded me that there is no way in which we can remain in Lórindol's company and yet avoid eating lembas. Yet what else can either of us do? Perhaps you could find work tending or preparing herbs, you have knowledge of that, but all my skills are to do with tracking or hunting or fighting; there is naught for me in Caras Galadon. And no one to bring me there, either, with my parents departed and my other kin distant. You are the only one to whom I am bound, and moreover why should I want to go where I cannot delight openly in that bond? In the city we would be obliged to conceal what we are, and could not love openly. I have no desire to set myself against all of our people and demand acceptance, I only wish to be left alone."
He paused and looked up at Haldir. "To be with you alone; that is all I desire, meldanya."
Haldir stepped across the grass and sank down cross-legged onto the blanket, facing Melpomaen.
"But this is dreaming," he said quietly. "You know we must return."
"Why?" argued Melpomaen stubbornly. "Why must we?" He reached out to take the cup from Haldir's hand, and sipped at it, wincing.
A short laugh was his response. "If for no other reason, because your injury today shows the dangers of traveling, two alone. But more important, why are we here, now, at all? What brought us to the borders of Mirkwood? We did not make this journey for our health." He crooked an eyebrow at Melpomaen and waited.
"To bear a message from the Lord and Lady to the king of Dale," muttered Melpomaen at last, grudgingly.
"Precisely. And though we need not make all haste to return with the reply, it would be worse than dishonorable to simply abandon it. I – we – would be betraying the trust that was laid upon us, to carry out this mission. Do you not agree, Maen?" Haldir asked.
Melpomaen sighed. "Of course, you are right, and we must return at least for that. But what then? I still see little to content me if we return to the rangers."
Haldir said, "I do not know what would be best for us to do, but I am reluctant to simply run off into the wild. Understand me, this is no lack of desire to be with you!"
"I know," interrupted Melpomaen, leaning forward to take Haldir's hand, "I have no doubt of your love, you have shown it to me so clearly. But why then do you not think my idea good?"
"There are several points that cause me concern," said Haldir, pressing Melpomaen's hand in return, to soften his criticism. "Unlike you, I do have family to whom I am close: parents and brothers, both. I could not simply abandon them without a word, and yet any explanation might only raise more difficulties. Also, despite your kind faith in my herbcraft, I really have little skill when set against those who have studied and trained to it; indeed I doubt that I have any skills at all that might find me work I would love in Caras Galadon as much as I enjoy being a ranger under Lórindol. It is unlikely that we will cease to be partners there upon our return. We have always worked together so well that I cannot imagine any reason why we would be separated. I doubt that in the city we would be able to be together in that way. But most of all, I truly do not see how we could survive alone for long. All sorts of things we need that we take for granted: clothes and shoes, for one; weapons of course; even help in healing serious injuries; and none of these would we have."
"Unless we went to Thranduil's kingdom, or Imladris, or one of the towns of Men such as Dale, even," pointed out Melpomaen.
"Yes, but if we went to any of those places just for such supplies or help, with what could we pay? Silver and gold do not grow like flowers in the meadows, more's the pity, and if we lived anywhere for long, to work and earn coin, then we would have the same difficulties as in Caras Galadon, without the benefit of being among our own people," said Haldir.
Melpomaen's eyes were bright. "So what is your solution, then, Dír?"
A shake of the head was his answer. "I told you, I have none. I have thought about this as we have traveled, but no answer has yet come to me."
He let go of Melpomaen's hand and moved to the fire to turn the spitted meat, now beginning to sizzle as the flames licked it. Looking over at his partner, he asked, "Are you comfortable enough, meldanya? Would you like more tea, or perhaps just water?"
"Water, please," said Melpomaen, holding out his empty cup. "You'll have to help me soon, I am afraid, after all the tea I have drunk. I am sorry to be a nuisance, but I do not think I can walk on this ankle without your support."
"It is no trouble," Haldir said, pouring the water. "Just let me know when you must go."
"Well, if you do not mind, now perhaps, before we are ready to eat."
When they returned, Haldir eased Melpomaen back onto the blankets, and laid a hand to his face. "I think you have a touch of fever," he said with concern. "I suppose it is to be expected, but I do not think you should take your turn at watch, tonight. It would be better for you to rest and let your body heal."
Melpomaen grumbled at that, but agreed, since he did indeed feel that he might not be able to stay awake as he should, and could do little if any prowling animal should come near. He leaned against the oak and watched Haldir making the final preparations for their meal. The savory smells made his mouth water in anticipation. Haldir sliced his serving into small morsels, so that he would not be troubled trying to cut his meat one-handed.
"It is nice to have something besides soup," commented the older Elf after his first mouthful of venison. "Although you make a tasty one."
Melpomaen nodded, busily chewing.
"Since it is evident that we will be here for several days, perhaps a week, until your ankle is healed enough to walk comfortably, perhaps I will take the time to try to catch a fish or two, for variety, and to save our supplies," Haldir added.
Swallowing, Melpomaen said, "I would certainly not object to that. Shall we make a bargain, that whatever you may catch, I will cook? I ought to be able to do something, even without the use of one arm. Though you'll have to clean the fish, I suspect."
"A good idea. I do not want to go far from you, for long, but we are still close to the river, and there are I think several small streams running into it nearby. We really haven't foraged as we should on this journey; there are berries ripe, and other plants good for eating as well as for medicine that I have seen as we walked."
Melpomaen grinned. "If one of us had to foolishly injure himself, it seems a good thing that it was I, since I would be rather hopeless at finding much to eat among the local flora! I might catch a fish, or a rabbit, but if I went picking mushrooms, say, I am sure I would poison us both."
"Mushrooms..." said Haldir thoughtfully. "I had not thought of those. My knowledge of them is quite limited, but if I see any I know are safe and good to eat, I can collect them too." He coughed as a gust of smoke drifted into his face. "The wind has shifted east," he observed, "so perhaps we had better alter things or you will be smoked along with the meat as you rest, Maen!"
"So, you do not want to see me as leathery and brown as those slices of meat you so carefully prepared? I am astonished at your prejudice, Dír," and Melpomaen used his big toe to prod Haldir's leg, the only part he could reach from where he sat.
Haldir responded to the teasing in kind. "Why, I had not thought of that. It might be an interesting test, to see which parched first, you or the venison!" He felt the sole of Melpomaen's foot. "I think perhaps you have the head start."
"Hah. You should talk. Who was complaining last year about the cold winds chapping his face?"
"That was I, I confess, but you groused more about that very same wind tangling your hair," returned Haldir.
Melpomaen rolled his eyes and took the last bite of his venison, setting the dish aside. "That was delicious, Dír," he said more seriously. "I cannot recall the last time I enjoyed a meal so well – no, not even in Dale with the king's fine wines to enhance the dishes."
"It would not have anything to do with the fact that you did not have to assist at all, would it?" Haldir jested.
"No," snapped Melpomaen. Haldir looked over, surprised at the distressed note in his partner's voice.
"What is it, Maen?" he asked softly.
"Please do not joke about that. I feel badly enough about this silly accident of mine, I don't need you to emphasize it more," said Melpomaen, his face flushed.
"I apologize if you thought I meant my words unkindly; they were not intended so," Haldir said. He reached to take Melpomaen's plate. "Now that it is full dark, it might do you good to rest while I keep watch. Do you need another cup of willow-bark first?"
Melpomaen nodded silently, biting his lip. When Haldir had finished clearing up from the meal and brought over the cup of tea, he tugged at his lover's hand. "Please, meldanya, sit by me here for a few moments while I drink. I am sorry that I jumped to conclusions and became annoyed with you; I know you do not speak to hurt."
"Just a moment, let me move the blankets for you first."
When that was accomplished, Haldir sat down to Melpomaen's right and slipped his left hand around his waist, drawing the dark head down to his own shoulder. "It is all right," he soothed, using his other hand to stroke back stray strands of hair from the damp forehead. "I know that your arm and ankle must be causing you pain, and that would make anyone distraught. I wish that I had some of the syrup of poppy that our healers bring in from the south; it is most effective against pain. As it is, of the plants nearby willow is the best that I know of, though it is not as strong as I would like for your ease."
"It is not the pain," came the response muffled against his shoulder. "At least, mostly not that. I think it is the uncertainty. For so many years, I have known exactly what I planned to do with my life; even when Caranfíniel refused me, still all else remained, and I joined the rangers as I had always intended, and life there was all I ever expected it would be. More, even, for having you as partner and friend was a greater joy than I could have hoped. Now nearly all those foundations are exposed as fragile, unstable, and you are the only certainty in my existence." Melpomaen pulled back to sit up, and drank off his tea in one long swallow, grimacing equally at the taste and at the discomfort that required him to drink.
"So forgive me, Dír, for my temper," he added, fixing Haldir with a clear gaze. "You are no more responsible for the problems we face than I, and it is unfair of me to snap at you."
"I wish I had answers," Haldir replied. "I don't long to return to the life we shared before, either. It had many rewards, but intensity only in moments of danger and fear, never in moments of love. Although," he paused thoughtfully, "I did love you deeply all those months and years, though without speaking of it. Even after so short a time as lovers, it is hard to compare my emotions then and now, to say whether I love you more now. I think not; I think my love is different, perhaps, but not greater."
He took a great breath, and sighed. "Maen, if we can think of no alternative, would you not be willing to return, and fight once again in Lórindol's company, with me beside you there? It would be difficult, but we know that eating lembas again would at least curb our physical desires, and since – let us admit it – there are reasons why passion would cause problems in the circumstances, perhaps that is not such a bad thing? We might resent the lack of choice forced upon us, but it yet might not be an unmitigated evil."
Melpomaen had listened closely to Haldir's words. Now he considered them, absently turning the empty cup around and around between his fingers.
"I suppose I would return, if that were the only way I could be with you. I told you before that where you went, I would follow; and though I spoke it not as an oath, still I hold myself bound by those words, for I meant them truly and not as a promise to be cast aside if the way became rough," he said. "But let us not cease to try to find a happier solution."
"Of course not, but it eases my mind to know that you are willing to stay with me and return home, even if all may not be as we might wish there, rather than risk ourselves in the wild." Haldir took the cup from Melpomaen and rose, stretching. "But for now, love, try and sleep, and I will keep watch till dawn."
Melpomaen tugged the blanket around himself and carefully moved so that he could rest without putting any pressure on his injured limbs. "Goodnight, meldanya," he murmured, his eyes closed.
"Rest well," said Haldir. He watched Melpomaen slip quickly into the world of dreams, and his heart ached at the thought of being separated from the other by some mischance. By the red light of the fire, he moved quietly around their camp, rearranging the carefully strung cord so that the hanging meat would smoke and dry evenly. He added a few more branches to the fire, then sat cross-legged before it, gazing into the flames, his senses alert for any hint of an unwanted intruder, but his mind occupied with the dilemma of the situation that faced them.
Haldir did not believe that they could live alone, outside any society of Elves and Men, certainly not for unnumbered years. Melpomaen's injuries were to his mind the strongest proof of that. If they had, then, to live among others, was not Lothlórien the best of their choices? It was home, and he at least had kin he loved there, though Melpomaen might not. The inhabitants of Thranduil's kingdom in Mirkwood would, he presumed, have the same attitudes as those of Lórien, and might be less tolerant of strangers.
So might it be better to take their chances in a town of Men? They had been well-received in Dale, though of course as messengers from a respected if distant king rather than for their own sake. Haldir did not know, however, whether a pairing of two binn would be any better accepted among Men than it was among Elves, and was wary of exposing himself and his lover to possible ostracization or worse, particularly since they might also have cultural misunderstandings to worry about.
And yet – no more than Melpomaen did he wish to relinquish passion for tame companionship. They had had but a short time together, and though they might steal a few days here and there at some future date, it did not seem enough. He sighed, frustrated in mind and body, and rose from the ground to pace away the hours of night.
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.