Author’s Note: Yep, I’m still whoring my yahoo group, groups dot yahoo dot com slash group slash cinnamongrrl.
Got me a new job, which is exhausting me, so I might be taking a tad longer to update than I have been so far… might take two days to write a chapter, instead of just the one. Sorry ‘bout that.
No one’s noticed Spike’s favourite word yet. I’m gonna make a poll on the yahoo group, so you can pick n’ choose which one you think it might be.
The Fall of Night, Part 17
12 February 3019
Rűmil tells me that just across the mountains in the distance lies fair Lorien. He fairly bursts to show it to me, and I confess myself eager to see it. It seems inconceivable to me that trees could ever be so large and strong to support entire houses… as you can see in the margins of the last few pages, he is a fair artist and has been sketching for me the shape of mellyrn leaves and the way the branches arch from the trunks.
These past days since Tharbad have been delightful. It seems an odd word to employ, if one considers that we are two injured elves, a woman, and ten other elves who rarely cease their bickering. We are so familiar with each other at this point, it feels rather like a large and boisterous family.
Thalion, with his age and solemnity, is the father. He reminds me strongly of Haldir, with his calm demeanor and wicked sense of humour, the only hint of which is a fiendish twinkle in his grey eyes, old and deep as the sea. They all go to him in moments of unsurety, yet he does not buckle under their need for advice and leadership. Rűmil does not begrudge the others their following Thalion’s direction—he is the youngest here, and though nominally the captain of the group, he does not act without Thalion’s input.
I think I am the mother, as I cannot seem to stop fussing over everyone. Rűmil asked if I meant to suckle Aglar, or was he old enough to fend for himself? This after I wiped a smear of food from Aglar’s lip. Then Aglar said he would not mind my suckling him, not one bit, and Rűmil stopped smiling and developed that very serious expression that indicates bloodshed is to follow. Silly elves.
Rűmil and Brethil are like Elrond’s sons, the mischievous twins. Ever are they playing tricks on the others, favouring poor Eręgmorn as the butt of their jokes over all the rest. Touching to see, however, is Brethil’s devotion to his wife, to whom he writes daily. “I shall present the letters to her when I see her,” he tells me each day, kissing the folded parchment before tucking it carefully into his tunic.
Eręgmorn himself is the intense lad, deep and wondering. We speak often of the mysteries of the universe, Eręgmorn and I. He, of course, has had vastly longer to ponder them, so mostly I just listen to him. He seems to like the sound of his own voice. Good thing, then, that it is pleasant to hear.
Aglar is hasty, a little short-tempered, and the least romantic elf I have met in my life. He has no time for ‘fannying about’ as he calls all manner of song, dance, art, literature, poetry, and history. He is not old, and is eager to distinguish himself as a warrior among his people. He strives to emulate old Thalion, but lacks that elf’s integration of warfare with the gentler arts, as the ideal Eldar should.
Aras, on the other hand, is the most romantic elf I’ve ever met. He does not neglect his archery, of course, but it does not hold his heart as does the magic of song.. He has a lovely singing voice, and many an hour has been whiled away as he serenades us, but I must admit that there are only so many tunes of doomed love and anguished sacrifice that one can hear before one longs to decapitate one’s performer with a blunt and rusty object. Perhaps an old spoon. I knew I should have kept the one from Rűmil’s soup… Does romance always have to be gloomy? I ask you.
Tonight I write this in the light of the fire, as we make camp where the Gwathlň River forks into the Mitheithel to the west, and the Bruinen to the east. We shall follow the Bruinen to The Ford, where soon after is found Imladris. So often have I heard the elves call it thus, that I find it hard to think of it now as Rivendell.
Odd to think that in less than a week, we shall be home again. And odder still to realize that I think of Imladris as ‘home’. I do not know what changes will come when we return. Neither Rűmil nor I have mentioned the future; we are content, for now, to enjoy each other as we may without placing expectations on the days to come.
I have taken to riding before him on his horse as we travel. Sometimes we talk, other times we are silent. By night, we sleep in each other’s arms, and I feel a completion I have only ever dreamt of. Even if this is all we will ever have of each other—which I suspect it will be-- it is blissful, and I will enjoy it for as long as I have it. I will hold him as long as I can, and if we are parted, it will not be by my choice.
Fear comes to me betimes, when I think of Imladris and Elrond and Nana. Is she well? Has she yet woken? Is she still asleep, ailing, pained? Will the athelas be able to help her? If not, will she be trapped in a coma until her body can no longer sustain life? Will I be welcomed or shunned at Imladris? Will Elrond forgive me? Has Haldir been summoned, will he be waiting there to shout at me? Will Rűmil stand beside me in my disgrace? Will I be able to withstand the disapproval of the elves for daring to love one of them?
The wondering makes my head ache. I shall go sit with Rűmil now, his touch makes me feel new again.
As he entered the clearing, dimly lit from the small fire in its centre, Rűmil’s gaze immediately latched onto Lalaith. He never tired of looking at her, watching her move. The way she tucked a strand of dark hair behind her ear—her curved, not pointed, ear—fascinated him; the manner in which she bit her lip when thinking what to write entranced him, as did the slight pucker of her brows when deep in thought. Her hands were small, with short nails and inkstains and rough spots like any woman who worked for a living, and he thought that with the firelight flickering over the angles and curves of her fingers there was not a sculptor in the world who could do justice to them.
Much had she changed since they’d met; so earnest and sober she had been, so concerned with her small world. He continued to marvel as she stepped carefully through the new land of humour, of smiles and laughs. Each new discovery for her was a wonderment for him, as well. And he too had changed, for a year ago he never would have even considered a woman to be worthy of his affections. And now… now, he felt as if his heart beat only for her. She had made a grievous error, but had accepted her fault and striven hard to rectify her mistake. Her fortitude was enough to inspire even an elf.
Lalaith was closing the journal now, her face thoughtful but strained a little; was she sore? She looked up then, and gave him one of her tentative little smiles, lips closed but curled slightly at the corners; still was she unsure of how exactly a mouth did such a thing, and he marveled again at the difference in her. She stood then, and walked to him. The sway of her hips as she walked drew Rűmil’s gaze like a pendulum swinging, hypnotizing; she was not of the ethereal, airy realm of the elves, but firmly rooted in the kingdom of the mundane. She sat by him, and even over the fresh scent of the trees and snow around them, he could smell the earthy female scent of her, a scent that elven females lacked, and gloried in it.
It seemed to him that his consciousness had been tugged downward from the stars to reside on the hills and dales of Middle-Earth itself, and Rűmil understood the symbolic nature of it even as he accepted it. Being with Lalaith meant that he would be immersing himself in a subculture, a world separate and uncerebral from that of his people. Few would understand how he could love a mortal, and fewer still would accept her as his mate. It meant turning his back on preconceptions that elfkind had harboured for millennia.
It pained him to subject her to that prejudice, even as Rűmil recognized that he himself had been guilty of it prior to meeting Lalaith and her grandmother. What had changed in him? He took her hand and turned it palm-up, tracing the lines on it with a fingertip. What had changed was, he no longer looked at her and saw a female of the race of Man. He looked at her and saw Lalaith. He looked at her, and he saw love. “Hűn nîn,” he murmured into her ear, then nipped at her earlobe.
Lalaith giggled at the touch, the sound still awkward and unfamiliar. Was she ticklish? Rűmil ventured a questing hand toward her ribs, and danced his fingers over them, and she fairly squirmed like a landed trout in her efforts to get away from him. “You are ticklish,” he declared with a slow smile, and advanced upon her.
“Oh, not fair!” she wailed, bunching up her skirts and trying to run from him, but all too soon she was tangled up in the heavy wool and flopping on her back in the snow. “Aieeeee!” she cried, and scooped up some snow to fling at him in defense.
“You do not want to begin a snow-battle with me,” Rűmil advised, a daring glint in his eye. “For my brothers and I have perfected that art, and you would not win, little one.”
“Indeed, she would not,” agreed Thalion from beside the fire. He stood slowly and stretched with languor before walking negligently toward them. “But would you be so satisfied with yourself if she had a few thousand more years of experience on her side?” And faster than an eye could blink, he had taken up a handful of snow, packed it, and launched it directly at Rűmil. It hit him right in the chest and splattered its icy crystals all over, frosting his handsome face, even glazing his eyebrows and lashes.
Rűmil blinked in surprise before narrowing his gaze. “I accept your challenge,” was all he said before ducking behind a tree and proceeding to attack them with vigour. Squealing, Lalaith fell back behind another tree and began forming snowballs as quickly as she could. Thalion snatched them from the steadily growing pile and lobbed them with frightening accuracy at her love.
“Think you we should join in?” Brethil asked Eręgmorn from where they sat idly by the fire.
But Eręgmorn was spared the need to reply, for just then Rűmil sent a missile right into his face. Sputtering, Eręgmorn spit out the mouthful of snow he’d acquired and glared at everyone within range.
“Two against one seems unfair to me,” Aras mentioned, and took up position beside Rűmil, who grinned in welcome at his new compatriot.
“But Lalaith does not count!” protested Brethil. “She could not throw to save her life!”
“She could to save Rűmil’s,” Aglar mentioned slyly, and slipped into place beside Thalion, who was calmly decimating his foe with deadly accuracy. Rűmil and Aras were covered liberally with smashed snowballs, while Thalion had barely been touched.
“Brethil!” shouted Rűmil. “Quit your ruminations and come help me!”
Brethil eyed the snowballs whizzing back and forth past him, and sighed. “I must go where my conscience steers me; like the stars, it shall not guide me wrong,” he declared. Then to everyone’s surprise, he joined Lalaith’s group. “She still has not forgiven me for writing in her journal,” explained Brethil. “I hope to curry her favour.”
That left Eręgmorn. “Fine,” he said with mock severity. “By default, I shall join Rűmil.” He began laying in a store of snowballs, but surprised them all when he turned on his fellows and began pelting Rűmil and Aras with their own artillery.
“Traitor!” shouted Rűmil, struggling to defend himself on two fronts. Then Aras too began attacking him. “Turncoat!” he roared, but was swiftly brought low under the barrage of five elves and their icy missiles.
“I will save you, Rűmil!” Lalaith declared dramatically, and flung herself on top of him, shielding him with her body. “They shall have to go through me to get to you!” Eręgmorn looked thoughtful at her choice of words, but catching Rűmil’s warning eye, refrained from comment.
“My saviour,” Rűmil purred into her ear, his breath warm on her chilled skin, and suddenly she was shivering in a way that had nothing at all to do with the cold of the February night. The other elves realized at that moment that they all had urgent business to which they must attend immediately, and left the two of them there on the ground.
“You will freeze,” Lalaith told him breathlessly, looking down into his face. His eyes were the same dark, velvet-blue as the sky above them, and snowflakes were caught in his golden lashes. She could look at him forever, she thought.
“Not if you are here to keep me warm,” he replied, his voice husky, “but you, you shall certainly freeze if we do not get you up.” He gently pushed her off him and stood nimbly, extending a hand to her. “And you need to sleep, it is late.” She came to her feet, leaning against his chest, moonlight reflecting in her eyes as she gazed up at him with love and longing and trust. “Hűn nîn,” he told her again, touching her cheek with his fingertips. “My heart.”
Lalaith placed her hand on his chest, above where that organ beat strongly. “How are you feeling?” she asked. “Was this all too strenuous for you? You are yet weak from your injury.”
He raised an amber brow. “It has been over a week, Lalaith, and you have healed me quite as good as new.” He nuzzled the side of her neck with a cold nose. “Should I provide a demonstration of how recovered I am?”
Her breath started to come more shallowly, and awareness of each other swirled around them in the darkness. “It was the soup, not me,” she informed him. “And I would like nothing more than for you to demonstrate.” Lalaith traced the edge of his ear with her tongue, causing him to twitch against her. “But think you this is the place and time? By a frozen river, when orcs could attack at any moment, and no bed within ten leagues?” She pulled back a little and smiled once more, this time a slow grin of pure enticement. “I would like not to be distracted our first time by the overhanging threat of death and mayhem, or even of a pinecone digging into unmentionable places.”
Rűmil stared at her a long moment. “Was that a joke?”
Lalaith took his hand and led him back toward the fire. “Maybe,” she conceded. “Am I getting any better at it?”
He helped her spread out the pallet they shared, then lay down and sighed when she curled herself against him, pulling the blankets over them. “I cannot be sure,” he said at last. “I was too distracted.”
“I thought it funny,” said Brethil from his own pallet across the clearing.
“As did I,” piped up Aglar, who stood leaning against a tree, as he was on watch.
“And I,” mentioned Eręgmorn from his seat by the fire.
“Argh,” said Rűmil, and flung his arm over his eyes in exasperation.