Only a Game
11. The Sea of Rhûn
"Yes, the dwarf had it from a cousin, who had it from some wild tribe, which has been venturing into the Far East – to some mountains with a strange name, the Orocarni." Told like that, my news sounded rather like the tale of the tarantula in the yucca-plant. You know those absolutely true stories of the second cousin of your aunt's cleaning lady's best friend…
On the other hand, those stories have to come from somewhere, and as the saying goes, where there is smoke, there may be a fire.
"Look, Elrohir, I know this sounds stupid, but the dwarf had no reason at all to lie to me, and since no one you asked had anything to lead us from here, why don't we try to find those mysterious Elves of the East?" I tried to sound confidently. And after all, what did an Elf, ranger and warrior have to fear in the Middle-earth of the fourth age?
When Elrohir looked up at me, startled, I realized that I had not told him my decision to accompany him to the end of his story yet. He did not say anything, but the glittering of starlight, which sometimes seemed to sparkle in his grey eyes, grew stronger, and his smile touched the core of my heart.
"You are right. If any of our kindred are left in the Far East, Elladan might have stayed with them. And at least, they would surely know if he had passed through their lands to reach the distant shores." He still did not sound convinced.
Acting on an impulse, never stopping to think, I stepped up to the Elf and grasped his arms tightly. "Do you believe your brother is still alive?" I tilted my head to look straight into his eyes. And all of a sudden a veil I had not known was even there vanished, leaving eyes full of panic and loneliness. "Do you believe Elladan is still alive somewhere?"
Elrohir inhaled slowly, releasing his breath in a shivery sigh. "Yes"; he whispered finally. "I believe he is alive. I would know if he was dead."
"Then we will find him." I promised. "If we have to look in every nook and cranny of this whole damned world, we will find him. I promise. – Ranger's promise." I added in an afterthought to lighten the mood.
We stayed in Esgaroth for another day, to buy additional supplies and horses. The vast distances of the Eastern plains were even too far for a light-footed Elf, and though it was only Hísimë, August, there was a deadline to keep. I was delighted with the white mare Elrohir bought for me. I had learned how to ride as a girl, as many girls in England do as teenagers, but I had never owned a horse, nor met such a beautiful and sweet creature as the white mare I would have the pleasure to ride from now on. She was called "Cloud"; which I did not think very original, but you cannot rename a grown animal, so Cloud she was. Elrohir had gotten a fiery grey stallion for himself, who was called Lightning. I did not dare approach this calamity on hooves, but he adored the Elf.
We left Esgaroth early the next morning. After so many days of sunshine, this was a grey day with a cold wind and dark clouds promising rain later in the day. We were clothed in the grey cloaks of Lorien, riding slowly across the white bridge towards the shore. If someone had been able to take a photo, it would have probably made a nice romantic poster for a teenager's room. Probably better that nobody was here to take such a picture. Oh, hell, for all I know there was an artist in the crowd, which had gathered to see us off and there's a dark and angsty oil on canvas thingy out there with Elrohir and a certain ranger from the North on it.
The crowd really surprised me. Men, women and children and a number of dwarves had come to the bridge to see us off, some of the girls even throwing blossoms on the bridge.
In their eyes I saw the haunting sadness of knowing that they would never see one of the firstborn again in their lives. I suddenly realized that I was riding with a kiving legend, a legend of heroic deeds, a legend of dark days, a legend of a beauty not of this world. A legend almost gone from this world.
I felt very weird.
We did not turn back on the path we had come, but instead rode around the Northernmost edge of the lake, taking the Eastern shore of the Celduin. The Redwater, halfway to the Sea of Rhûn would be comparatively easy to cross with horses, but not the Celduin. The few extra miles around the Northern edge of Long Lake would save us a dangerous crossing later on.
The first day we barely talked. I was too busy with Cloud, making much of the beautiful horse and trying not to fall off ignominiously; it had been several years since I had ridden the last time.
In the evening of the first day I was almost too stiff to dismount by myself. 'Almost' being the important word in the context. I cleaned Cloud's hooves and brushed her silky fur lovingly, leading her carefully to the river to drink and choosing an especially nice spot of grass for her to graze and stay for the night. I kept as far away from Lightning as I could, after the stallion had made it clear that he did not care for either my or Cloud's presence in his immediate vicinity.
After the first day we settled into an easy routine or rising early and riding with two or three breaks until sunset. Within three days Lightning was even inclined to put up with Cloud's
presence, and if not happy with me, he let himself be persuaded not to try and bite my ears off.
We rode on a well travelled path on the Eastern banks of the Celduin. Although much of the trading between Dorwinion and Dale was done with boats on the Celduin, there was quite a lot of coming and going on horse and on foot, too. Thus there were well maintained paths on either side of the Celduin. But even so, we did not meet anyone on the path, and on the plains to the East there were only a few scattered villages.
All in all, Middle-earth was sparsely populated three hundred years into the fourth age. The conditions of climate and weather were harsh, the quality of the soil and the yield of crops was not enough to feed an increasing population. But at the moment there was peace through all the lands, and the vile creatures, which had threatened travellers and villages all through the third age, were dwindling rapidly in their numbers. Not rapidly enough to save us from an attack on the High Pass, I mused, but rapidly enough that the distrust of the wild tribes in the East was more of a danger to us than orcs, dragons or trolls.
A week after we had left Esgaroth we came to the confluence of Celduin and Carnen. This mingling of rivers was quite a spectacle, because the Redwater was exactly what its name implies, red. It flowed down from the Iron Hills to the north, carrying dissolved iron and other metallic substances in its floods, which coloured the water of the river a stunning red.
It was relatively easy to cross the Redwater; it was a smaller stream and not as swift as the Celduin. But the horses did not like the red water. I could not fault their taste. Their fur stayed reddish for several days and the water tasted pungently of iron.
But for miles after the Carnen had met the Celduin, the Celduin's water stayed full of swirling colours, at first the true red of the Redwater, later a pale, pale pink, which was truly beautiful.
Two days after we had left Esgaroth, the weather turned warm again, and travelling was nice and easy. Any idiot could have kept in the saddle of my good-natured Cloud, but she really took a liking to me, and there was no horse alive to ever give any trouble to an elf. That way we made an easy forty miles a day on the level plains of Wilderland and the eastern steppes of Dale.
As we were approaching the inland sea, the Sea of Rhûn, the land on the western shores of the Celduin was changing; we were coming close to Dorwinion, the warm and fertile hill country, where the Silvan Elves of old had procured their excellent red and white wines.
Dorwinion was actually only a translation of 'land of wines'.
"I don't know how the people of Dorwinion fare nowadays", Elrohir told me. "The dwarves prefer mead and beer, and most of the men do, too. With the Elves gone, they will have to look for new markets, or turn to growing hops." And that was certainly an aspect of the elves leaving Middle-earth no one has ever thought of before.
"The wines the people from Dorwinion grew were really excellent… but I guess, a people who are capable of making fine wines and selling them at a good profit will always manage."
Elrohir had halted his horse and was looking across the Celduin towards the West, his gaze following the undulating hills of Dorwinion.
"I guess there will be good wines in Aman", I said, trying to cheer Elrohir up. But he did not like to think of Aman, and he was frightened to think about whatever had happened to his brother.
The river was our beacon as the lands towards the East grew more desolate; wide empty plains with high grasses, in which the wind created waves just like on the surface of a lake, stretched on and on to the horizon.
We lit a large fire every night and made sure to tie down the horses securely. Sometimes at night the howling of wolves would drift towards us from the Eastern plains. It was an eerie, feral and strangely melodic song of wilderness, touching my very soul, but at the same time making me shiver with primeval fears.
I could see that Elrohir was not affected like that by the song of the wolves. He sat close to the fire, his eyes dark and staring off into the distance, but his ears betrayed a certain tension, and there was a certain almost feral cast to his features I had not noticed before.
"Do you understand their song?" I asked.
He turned his head, life and personality only gradually returning to his eyes. "Yes. They sing of hunt and freedom and the closeness of their pack. They sing about their lives and deaths on the wind-swept steppes."
"Do you miss your family?" I asked, and regretted it instantly; I had wanted to ask about Elrond and his mother for a long time, and while knowing better than to ask about Arwen, the question had now come out of its own accord.
But Elrohir did not seem hurt or discomforted by my impolite question. He merely sighed and thoughtfully pursed his lips. "Even for an Elf it has been a long time since we were all together, and we never shall be again, neither in this world or the next. My mother was broken in body and spirit, when she sailed from the Grey Havens. My father had healed her wounds, but somehow he could not heal HER. He was never the same afterwards, and when the power of Vilya, the ring of power entrusted into his care, finally waned, he… became very… fragile. I hope they are together now, whole and happy. But something in my soul tells me that it is not so. However, I have no way of knowing until I myself sail into the Bay of Eldamar. Now, my sister, Arwen… she led a happy life, which was long and full and good. And though the end was hard for her to endure, she will join Aragorn in the Halls of Eru Ilúvatar and move with him beyond the circles of this world, an option which we – the firstborn and beloved of the Valar – have not. Our immortality binds us to the circles of this world until the end of Eä."
He fell silent, obviously lost in memories. Seeing I had not committed the absolute faux-pas, I dared to ask yet another question I had always wanted to have answered.
"Do you remember your childhood? How is it for Elves to be children, to grow up?"
He grinned at me then, looking suddenly very young and care-free. "You remind me of Arwen, when she was only a little Elfling, forever asking questions about everything."
"Very well, I will tell you what I know. But it is not much; I have no children of my own, and my childhood is long past. Elves first awoke at the shores of the lake of Cuiviénen. The world was wild and dangerous then, and the Elves were – although immortal – only few, 144 in all, and not yet powerful in any way. To give their children a chance to grow and survive, the Valar made the speed of childhood and youth approximately the same as that of human children. But Arwen told me that Elvish children are far less clumsy and not as prone to cry as human children, and that they are quicker to speak. The difference in aging and experiencing time only sets in with maturity, at about twenty-one. I grew up in Rivendell… Elladan and I were always in difficulties, playing jokes on our elders, hiding in the forests, trying to leave the valley on our own. Later Aragorn was with us almost all the time… I dare say, if my father has any grey hairs, it's our doing."
Looking into his bright eyes I felt as if I saw three lithe young bodies hunting through dark woods, sword blades gleaming in the light of a full moon, dark shapes drawing back, hot, black blood gushing from deadly wounds, young warriors returning victorious…
I lifted my gaze and suddenly found my heart pounding madly, the distance between Elrohir and myself only a touch, easily bridged by desire. For a long moment I thought I could feel the slow pulsing of heated blood in his veins as much as in my own. Then the moment passed and I turned away, blushing.
Six days after we had passed the confluence of Carnen and Celduin, we reached the Bay of Dorwinion at the Sea of Rhûn. There was no longer any settlement close to the Bay. In earlier ages there had been a rich market town on the Western side of the bay, trading wine, fish and horses, but evil Men and creatures – Easterlings, orcs, trolls, dragons and wargs – had plagued the city for centuries, until it was finally deserted during the War of the Rings, and it had never been rebuilt. And even if there had been a town there, we wanted to go to the empty lands of the East, where no men travelled and the stars were strange.Also, it would have been an unnecessary risk to cross the strong currents of the Celduin so close to the sea.
But we decided to rest for a day or two at the shores of the warm turquoise Sea of Rhûn.
The beaches of the Bay of Dorwinion were tinged in a pale pink colour, remnants of the pigments flooding down from the Iron Hills with the Redwater. In those balmy summer's days, the beaches and the soft waves of the sea were almost unbelievably beautiful.
Having said as much, what came to pass was probably inevitable.
The night was not one of the warm and easy summer nights we had enjoyed so far, but a night of thunder and rain, with hot winds driving high waves at the pink beaches of Dorwinion. We had hobbled the horses at some distance from the fire in the shelter of the dunes. We had lit the fire in a sandy hollow between two high dunes, out of the wind, but with a view across the sea. I loved the dunes. They reminded me of holidays spent in France as a small child, discovering immense deserts in a dune and whole mountain ranges in a partially submerged rock. Here I felt almost as playful and care-free as I had been then, and it was more beautiful. To all the beaches I had ever visited on earth, a tarred road had led, and there had been waste bins and the stubs of cigarettes in the sand, and the lights of houses and cars close by.
This was different.
This was wild, this was primeval, this was completely reckless.
And when the winds picked up, and the waves begun to crest with white foam, I felt my heart beating faster. A stormy night out on the beach… did you never dream of such freedom?
I sat in the soft sands close to the fire, huddled in my grey cloak, smelling the salty air and the wind, feeling exhilaration begin to course through my blood. I felt like shouting for joy at the wildness of the night, like losing myself to the blind ecstasy of the storm.
The wind grew cold in this stormy night. I shivered as a gust of wind caught at my hair and swept it away from my neck.
"Are you cold?" Elrohir asked.
"No, no", I protested. "I am alright."
"That is not true, you are shivering. Come, sit next to me, you don't have to be cold."
I did not know how to object, and I did not really want to, either.
So he sat down next to me, to share his warmth. I felt my heart race, as I inhaled his fragrant, male scent and experienced the powerful closeness of his body. The storm was blowing around us, towering waves with bright foamy crests rushing towards the shore, and I felt my heart beat like a drum, a rhythm spreading through my whole body, from my toes to the top of my head.
Suddenly Elrohir turned his face towards me, and his lips were almost touching my ears, as he whispered in a low, husky voice, "I can smell your desire. It is like the sweetest perfume, intoxicating with your abandon."
I felt myself blushing hotly, my heart skipping a beat. "I – I – I'm sorry, I can't help myself. Just… go away."
I tried to turn away, but cool and slender fingers caught my chin, turning me around to face the elf, and his eyes were blazing like the stars up in heaven. "Would you mind very much, if I did not go away? If I… maybe… did this?"
And he suddenly placed his lips against mine. I felt a power like a lightning strike through me, robbing me of speech and control, rendering me completely helpless.
My fingers somehow found their way to his face, caressing his cheekbones, travelling to the delicate points of his ears, just as one of his hands enveloped my neck and the other stroked down to the small of my back. Sighing softly into his mouth I let myself go, to the winds of the summer storm rushing around us, to the desire rushing through our blood.
I sank back into the soft pink sands of the beach of Dorwinion, as capable fingers swiftly removed my clothes, proceeding to stroke and caress my breasts. Elrohir knelt above, shedding his clothes in a single, fluid movement, revealing a body of smooth, pearly white perfection, which was gleaming with a cool internal light, the grace of the firstborn apparent in his love. I did not dare to reach for him, but he bent down against me, running his hands over my breasts, my sides, my hips and deeper, again and again, until I was crying out against his breast, loosing any notion of myself in this dance of flesh and wind.
When I thought, I could take it no longer, he finally filled me, smooth and strong, reaching my deepest corners. I felt I was drowning in his white light of power and my keening travelled high and far with the wind, as our boundaries dissolved and we became one with the waves, rocking against the shores of our bodies.
I fell asleep in the crook of his arm, tightly wrapped in his embrace, my legs tangled with his.
Our lips almost touching, the sigh of our mingled voices followed me into the depth of exhausted slumber.
My love, my life, my every breath…
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.