The Yellow Bird, part 2
for wildecate on the occasion of her birthday
When Emmelin awoke the next day, it was with great reluctance, and she fought against consciousness until there was no escaping it. Of course, with her mother’s voice entreating her so sweetly to come back to them, it was hardly possible for Emmelin to refuse. Blinking rapidly, she seemed dazed and frightened, especially when she felt how immobile her right arm was..
“You are well,” Tuilinn was quick to tell her as Heletir gently held his daughter’s unbroken hand. “Only rest. Others have come from Caras Galadhon,” she continued quickly, before Emmelin could speak. “Healers, and marchwardens.”
“Marchwardens?” Emmelin croaked, her throat raspy from two days without drinking. “Not—“
Tavor appeared in the doorway then, with Haldir at his side. “They sent Haldir, and his brothers, to protect us until we can return to the safety of the city,” the carpenter-elf told her quietly.
Emmelin looked to her mother in mute appeal. “She is embarrassed to look less than her best,” Tuilinn interpreted with a smile, “and asks that you return later, so she can thank you properly.”
When they were gone, Emmelin sank back onto the pillows. “Naneth,” she asked, “he is here as well, is he not?”
“He is,” Tuilinn confirmed. “Are you still determined to hide from him your love?”
“I am,” she whispered. “I cannot conceive of a way to reveal myself to him, after all these years.”
“It does not matter how, so long as you do,” Dúlinn said from the far side of the bed where she sat mending a tunic damaged in the attack. “He and his brothers are wondrous fair, and very kind as well.” She paused. “At least, he and Rùmil are kind,” she amended after a moment. “But they have been fine to come all this way and help. I do not think he will mind in the least, that it has taken you eighty-two years to gather your courage.” Her smile was like the sun cresting the horizon. “Do you not recall Arwen telling us how the Galadhrim are ever wont to taken their time in courting? Likely he would think well of your patience.”
Tuilinn frowned at her elder daughter. “Haldir has ever been kind as well; it is just that he has not fawned over you as all others that displeases you, you vain thing,” she said, trying to be stern but failing when Dúlinn smiled impishly at her.
“I am a vain thing,” she admitted freely. “We all need our talents, and since I can neither sing nor draw like you and you, best that I have dimples and a graceful way.”
Beside her, lap full of another torn garment, Merelind gave a somewhat unladylike snort. “And I have neither much beauty, nor hardly any talent to call my own,” she said. “What does that say for me?’
“ ‘Tis your winning demeanor that shall hearken all to your side, cousin,” Emmelin commented slyly, feeling her spirits raise in spite of her terror of being discovered by Orophin.
“All simpleminded folk, perhaps,” Merelind grumbled. “A sad fact, it is, that I have little patience with anyone and even less tolerance for fools.”
“Any fool in particular, Merelind?” Dúlinn prompted, nudging her cousin with her elbow and earning herself a grim glower.
Tuilinn and Emmelin exchanged a glance, sensing some juicy gossip, and then turned to Dúlinn. “What has happened?” Emmelin asked.
“Yes, tell us,” Tuilinn urged, sitting on the edge of the bed. “I am near to madness from this inactivity; tell me what you mean.”
“I mean nothing,” Dúlinn replied innocently. “There is no indication whatsoever that Rùmil finds Merelind… intriguing, or that she might, just possibly, return his feelings.”
Two pairs of wide eyes turned to Merelind, whose scowl became positively murderous. “I would wring your neck, cousin, would not Haldir wring mine in return,” she said, and noted with satisfaction that the eyes turned swiftly in Dúlinn’s direction.
“Infamy!” Dúlinn exclaimed, and danced up out of her chair and out into the main room of the talan. “How you slander us both!” Merelind was after her in a trice, hand outstretched to inflict great punishment on the other elleth. Tuilinn helped Emmelin from the bed and they followed more slowly. “You behave as if I were wrong, and in matters of love, I never am!”
Merelind’s swift hand managed to worm to Dúlinn’s side and inflict a considerable tickle, making her laughter ring off the walls like bells, before Dúlinn flitted away once more. Then she slammed right into the wide chest of Haldir, who had just stepped from the chamber in which Aiwë slowly healed. “Oh, I do beg your pardon,” she told him gravely, then ruined the effect by laughing up at him.
“Of what matter of love do you speak?” he asked, crossing his arms and surveying her calmly.
“Merely that there is a lad in Caras Galadhon who fancies dear Merelind, but she will not have him.” Again, Dúlinn sidestepped her cousin’s increasingly frantic attempts to catch her. “She is haughty and proud, and despises all but the most serious and weighty of conversation.”
“Is that so?” he asked, shooting an undecipherable look at Rùmil, whose own expression was increasingly bleak. “How unfortunate for him.” She nodded. “And you?” he continued, the corner of his mouth curling slightly. “Do you desire only weighty conversation?”
“Indeed not,” she replied. “I am a flighty creature, and serious talk makes me want to scream.” She leapt nimbly behind him, not only neatly dodging Merelind once more but managing to propel her straight into Rùmil’s arms. That elf brightened considerably, and made a great show of righting her and smoothing her sleeves before releasing her. Both their cheeks glowed with colour by the time she was standing on her own again, and they stared at each other a long, awkward moment before mumbling their excuses and turning away; Merelind to flee to her room, and Rùmil to clamber down the ladder to the ground.
“You are more a master tactician than a flighty creature, methinks,” Haldir commented over his shoulder to where she hid behind him. “I will remember not to underestimate you.”
Dúlinn sniffed in an approximation of arrogance; it merely gave her the appearance of a kitten about to sneeze. “ ‘Tis best never to underestimate anyone,” she told him, and flounced off.
Emmelin, in the meanwhile, had been watching the scene carefully, scoring it into her mind to draw when she was healed. Dignified Merelind falling into Rùmil, whose delight could not be hidden; silly but yet devious Dúlinn hiding behind aloof and smirking Haldir. She flexed the fingers of her left hand and wondered if she would be any good using it until her right healed. “Naneth, could you bring my—“
“Ah, Orophin,” Tuilinn said somewhat more loudly than she needed to. “Emmelin is well enough now to thank you for your part in her recovery.”
A tremor of alarm raced up Emmelin’s spine; she knew he was directly behind her, and slowly turned, lifting her head almost reluctantly to face him. Oh, Elbereth, she thought. He was not the handsomest of the brothers (Rùmil) nor was he the most impressive of stature (Haldir) but there was something intriguing about him that had caught her artist’s eye all those years ago, a certain depth of spirit and beauty of soul that had entranced her upon first sight.
And it was no less powerful at close range; Emmelin felt her knees knock together as he looked down at her, his blue eyes clear and unguarded. “I am pleased to see you feeling better,” he told her politely, “but all I did was fetch the wood to splint your arm.”
“I am glad for it,” she told him, a trifle breathless. “How fares my aunt? Is Aiwë well?”
“She will be able to travel by litter tomorrow,” Orophin told her.
“I am comforted to hear it,” Emmelin replied, and smiled at him in relief. He smiled back at her, and for a moment, there was much smiling all around. Then she remembered who he was, and felt heat rush to her face. “I… need to return to my bed,” she said, feeling panic swell within her.
“You are unwell?” he asked, concerned, and to her horror, swept her immediately into his arms. She squeaked and tried to push away with her good hand, but he was very strong indeed and ignored her to carry her back to her chamber. Over his shoulder she saw her mother grinning unashamedly at them and buried her face against his shoulder.
It was quite the wrong thing to do; he smelled wonderful, and the play of muscles under the fabric of his tunic made her whimper. “What pains you?” Orophin asked, gently placing her on the bed. “Shall I call for Nestad or Iaun?”
Cheeks ablaze, Emmelin squeezed her eyes shut and prayed for Ilúvatar to take her now. “No,” she said at last. “Please do not disturb them. I am well. Just… tired.”
He gazed searchingly at her face a long moment; somehow, she managed to hold his gaze and not turn away. Finally, he nodded. “Promise me you will call for them if you worsen.”
“I promise,” she replied, and was gifted by another smile from him. She sank back weakly at the sight, feeling a rush of love swamp her.
“We should let her rest now,” Tuilinn said, ushering Orophin from the room before turning back and surveying her daughter, hands on hips. “Emmelin, this cannot continue,” she declared once she was sure the elf was out of hearing range. “We shall have to live in the city now, and you cannot continue to behave like this around him.”
But Emmelin just rolled onto her side, wincing as her broken arm shifted, and closed her eyes. She had not hidden her identity from him for nearly a century only to reveal herself now.