The Marchwarden of Lorien paused at the root of the tree which bore his home, craning his neck to peer into the windows above. Night had long since draped the forest in shadows. Now the glow of a single candle within the dwelling cast a slender silhouette against the curtains which veiled the windows. Haldir’s wife was moving inside, finishing her tasks before retiring to bed.
There was something appealingly intimate about watching her unobserved. He was in no hurry to announce his presence. He tarried on the doorstep as Isilme carefully folded her dayclothes and placed then into a chest, then sat before her mirror to brush her long hair. A smile tugged at his lips. Fifty lives of men had not begun to dim the beauty of the locks. Released from its bindings, it flowed freely over her shoulders in shining streams that were, at once, the deep hue of polished wood, and the rich loam of fertile earth, and the dark gleam of a dying flame. “Brown, Haldir.” Isilme had informed him in a tone of flattered exasperation. He had nodded his head, yet remained unconvinced that a single word could capture any part of her essence in its entirety.
When her hair had been smoothed free of tangles,Isilme extinguished her lantern, then curled into her bed.
“Are you coming, young one?” She called just when Haldir began to think that she had fallen asleep.
The smile that had been hovering on his lips broke free. “I did not think that you saw me.” He explained, finally entering the chamber.
“I did not...but I knew you were there.”
Isilme sat upright again, then reached forward to stroke her husband’s cheek. He leaned against the cool hand, savoring its touch for a moment as he closed his eyes.
“I was detained...” the smile on his features melted.
“There were trespassers in the wood.”
Haldir nodded, unsurprised that the news had spread throughout the wood. “Two men, Aragorn called Strider was of their party...” His voice dwindled, leaving the rest of the travelers unnamed. “They are heading East.”
“East?” A delicate eyebrow lifted. “To the White City?”
“For now, perhaps.” Haldir took up her hand again and brushed it with his lips.
He did not answer immediately. “Their plans are not known to me.”
“Not known...but guessed?” Distress furrowed Isilme’s brow. “It is almost the end.”
Haldir shifted uneasily, refusing to acknowledge the words. He rose and paced to the far end of the chamber. Isilme was an artist of glass and stone.Though she spent mornings in the crafthalls with the others, her private works were kept at home. Her urrent project sprawled along the southern wall: a andscape of sorts, showing cliffs running down to the ea, while a starry sky sprawled overhead. It was nearly finished, with only a few gaps left to piece.
“You were busy today.” he commented quietly, pressing his fingers into the empty holes. “It is almost complete.”
“Almost.” She acknowledged softly, slipping from the bed to meet him. “There are a few stars left to place. Tintinelle there...and Earendil.”
“And our star, of course.”
Even in the darkness he could feel her flush.
“Yes.” Her small hands touched a blank space almost reverently. “Our star.”
“And then it will be done.”
“Yes.” Isilme dropped her hand and leaned into her husband’s chest. “Yes, but not before. It must be perfect...”
“It is the last.” The sharp tang of pain flavored the words and Haldir frowned as he spoke them.
“Yes.” Isilme answered again, her face betraying her shock that her husband had dared to voice the unspoken truth between them. “It is the last before we go.”
Before you go...
Haldir closed his eyes, forcing himself to leave this, at least, unsaid. “Our star.” He murmured instead.
“This is the stone I will use.” Isilme sorted through the pile of gems, bringing forth a softly glowing stone. Haldir took it from her fingers. “We will outshine the Mariner then?”
Isilme smiled secretively. “Ours was the greater romance.”
His smile returned, though faintly, “Our grand romance.” He said ironically. “Haldir and Isilme, who never had a great misunderstanding...Whose parents did not object...”
“Who lived in joy together for two thousand years...”
“Who were never parted until the end.”
The end. Like a prism twisting light, the coming sorrow recast all their years in different shades. Their marriage had not been a tale for songs. Still, Haldir wondered, standing at last on the brink of the change, if true happiness were not a thing more rare.
It certainly seemed extraordinary while it unfurled.
Haldir cast his mind back to the beginning of their love. The world was young then, or perhaps it merely felt so because they were both newborn themselves. “Young one” Isilme called him still, though she was older by merely two dozen years. There had not been two hundred year turnings between them on the night they met in the outmarches beyond the groves.
Haldir was returning from patrol and Isilme was (maddeningly, illogically, blissfully) catching snowflakes on her tongue. Haldir had watched, as she frolicked through the snow, trying to decide if he wanted to smile or frown. It was just the sort of unguarded behavior that liked to set him on edge…and yet there was something in her expression, or perhaps in her air which caught his interest. She moved with the wind in an unchoreographed dance,pausing now and again to bend over a wide leaf where a flake had fallen to inspect it more closely.
He noted the intensity on her face- a face that had somehow never seemed beautiful before that moment- as she fixed her eyes on the speck of moisture, then
closed them tightly in concentration.
“What are you doing?” He had not been able to restrain his curiosity for long.
“Remembering.” She replied, without turning.
Haldir frowned, following her gaze to the single frozen drop that had settled on a blade of grass. “It is nothing that bears attention.” He gestured toward the sky and white flocked field. “There are millions.”
“But only one like this.” Isilme looked up at last, watching sadly as the ice jewel melted and pooled. “Beauty is fleeting.” She said breathily. Her deep blue eyes scanned the drifts. “And mostly unnoticed. I will cherish it while I may.”
Somehow, the simple acknowledgment that it would pass away made the observation more urgent.
Isilme stepped toward him, stretching out her hand. For a moment, Haldir thought she meant to touch his face, but her slender fingers stopped on the breast of his tunic. Another snowflake lingered there. She smiled again, regarding it intensely as if it were the most precious gems of Middle Earth.
And then she looked at him the same way.
Haldir felt the power of her gaze as though it had been a physical touch. Something had shifted within him. The seed of his life to come had burst at last, filling him with a sudden, pregnant hope of what could be. In her face he saw an echo of himself. There were no words or touches to mark the moment. Something of their fates had been sung by the Valar. Unchangeable and inevitable, the notes had taken form.
The days of their courtship were brief. A dozen seasons of shared secrets and hushed voices and hidden looks. When the snows had melted he led her back to the meadow. There, in the soft sweet grass he took her to wife. Limbs and voices and souls twined in witness of their unspoken vows. When it was over, he had held her tight against his chest, looking up into the sky. Low clouds hid all the stars but one, a low, pinprick of light unnoticeable on any other night: Their star- The one that no one else would notice. It burned steady and unnoticed on the fringe of a velvet sky.
Aranice was begotten beneath the star.
It was many years since their golden-haired daughter had sailed to the Grey Havens, but still her father cherished the memory. The moonlight bathed Isilme in a particular beauty as she stepped, bare-skinned, into his arms. He remembered how the liquid warmth of her body pooled against him: softness flowing over steel. Every nerve in his body sang to her touch as they moved together in the night. The sight of Isilme’s body- her touch and taste and smell- could still bring him to flame, though such cravings were meant to be long past. Another child lingered between them, perhaps, hovering on the other side of life…but he would not dare its summoning. Isilme, the artist, had poured too much of herself into the first fruit of her womb. To bear a second she would become diminished, and Haldir could not bear the thought.
How short those first years had been! Haldir had traveled in the world of men. He knew that their loves (or such as passed for the sentiment among their kind) were mired in the frantic bustling of youth. Beginnings, begettings, farewells. Their spans were too brief for stillness. Men never knew the perfection of pleasure that did not require a touch or the beauty of acceptance that was never diminished or contingent or withdrawn.
Most of Haldir and Isilme’s shared life had been passed in unremarkable moments. Separately they were dull and meaningless, but woven together they were the tapestry of a contented life. Time was marked time beginnings and ends, but enriched the minutiae of living from day to day: Isilme’s tools scattered about their room, the songs she sang as she swept the floor, the way her fingers moved as she braided her hair.
Soon those comforts would be memories too, melted into vapor like the forgotten snowflakes.
The awareness of time filled him like a dull ache.
Isilme sensed his mood. Her soft hand rose to his cheek again. “Peace, Haldir. It is not yet the end.”
He captured her hand within his own. Haldir stared, trying to burn the moment forever into his mind.
This was not the end. But the end was coming. Soon. Awareness of that end seemed to throw every moment in sharp relief. Still, there was no way to avoid the flow of time.
Haldir led Isilme to their bed and gathered her tightly in his arms. There were a few more years of happiness.
He would cherish them while he could.
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.