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Not A Substitute But A Fortification: 1. Goldilocks
Elenwe stood silently, taken aback. Turgon had insisted on guards whose function was to protect Elenwe on their long march, though from what she was never sure. They even guarded this small tent, the place where she withdrew every night to meditate, when she wasn't there, as it was near the tent where she and Turgon slept. Somehow this boy had passed them.
He didn't seem to have noticed her entrance. She had no idea who he could be, or what his errand, and it struck her suddenly that perhaps he was a vision. Was she seeing the future of her people? Was this the son she had not yet conceived?
Despite being deeply spiritual Elenwe was on the whole a practical and sensible person. She found it improbable that this was a vision, as she wasn't in meditation yet. Still he was unlikely to do her harm: he looked as fragile as a bundle of dry sticks. Calling the guards would be far less interesting than finding out why he was here despite their supposed vigilance. Elenwe let herself gracefully down into the Golden Blossom and arranged herself to mirror him.
"Child," she said gently, and his eyelids flew up, his eyes coming out of a deep unfocus to regard her with surprise and alarm. But he did not move, and she inwardly approved: his discipline suggested that he'd had a good upbringing. Yes, he could be her son. And his eyes were blue, the same deep gentle dark blue as her father's. Idril had Turgon's stern grey eyes and Elenwe had never let herself think that she wished they had stayed the blue they had been at the girl's birth.
"Little Mother," he whispered, and the lines of pain that appeared around his eyes and mouth as he spoke made him look suddenly much older. She blinked at him. The title was generally reserved for a Vanya's mother's sister. "I am cast out. I do not know where to go. I ask you for mercy."
"Little Son," she answered softly, in keeping with his greeting, "who has cast you out?"
His eyes took on a flat sheen of tears, but he shed none. "The Valar," he said. "My lord. And my mother."
"That is a hard fate," she said. "What have you done that they would cast you out?"
"My mother and the Valar because I have shed my kinsmen's blood," he said, "my lord because I will not shed more." A shiver ran very faintly through him, hardly visible, and he blinked as he composed himself. It was only a tiny crack in discipline, and it moved her the more for being so fleeting.
"What mercy can I give you?" she asked gently.
"I ask you to give me a place," he answered, regarding her steadily, but she could see in the tiny muscles around his eyes that he was desperate. She watched him a moment, spinning out an unhurried silence as she considered his request. He was flesh and blood, she was sure of it now: he smelled of mud and she could hear his breath when he spoke. Then, no vision was he, but a real boy, a real fugitive and by his own admission a murderer.
She had never seen the strange quality of hollowness that stretched his face, and it struck her suddenly that he was more than likely in physical distress from lack of food. His clothing was well-made but damaged from hard use, and he bore a sword across his back, the hilt beautiful and un-worn.
He endured her scrutiny impassively, his only motion a careful and self-conscious re-setting of his jaw as he swallowed. He had a sharp little face, but something in it was naggingly familiar, something in the shape of the mouth, beneath eyes like her own father's.
"A place is not mine to give," she said, trying to place what was so familiar about him. "You will have to ask my lord."
He nodded slowly, bowing his head and folding his hands a little tighter.
"But I will ask for you," she said. "He will not refuse me."
The set of his shoulders relaxed, barely perceptible, and he raised his head. "But, child," she said quietly, "this is not a haven. Turgon's host is unstained with the blood of kin, but we remain allies of those who did this violence. My lord will require your fealty. Would you draw your sword at his bidding? Even he may demand it."
The boy swallowed again, and she could see that his poise was an illusion stretched very tightly over a desperate frame. "Yes," he said, and his eyes were dull, not quite meeting hers. Here was a child who had learned a hard lesson. "I will give obedience in return for a place. It is the right order of things."
Elenwe nodded, satisfied. He was a beautiful child, despite his ragged appearance, long-limbed and well-bred, and his manners were impeccable. "Then I will ask him for you," she said.
He bowed his head deeply, formally, clasping his hands. "I thank you, Little Mother," he said quietly.
She regarded his downturned head, looking at his ragged hair. It looked as though he had cut it himself, without a mirror, on a mad whim. "Why do you call me that?" she asked quietly.
He looked up at her, startled. His mouth moved, and then he composed himself. "I had thought you might not know me," he said, his mouth curling in a sad half-smile. "I do not look as I did."
The familiarity coalesced with sudden astonishing clarity, and she lost her composure enough to gasp. "Uruvanwe," she said, and covered her mouth with her twined hands for a moment before reaching out to him with one. "Oh Uruvanwe. What has happened to you?"
He took her hand, and his hands were both very cold, his fingers delicate and almost brittle-seeming, but clinging to hers with a fragile strength. Now the tears had spilled, and he let his head droop a little. "The, the world-- the world has changed," he said unsteadily, "and I no longer know-- anything."
"Little Son," she said, very much moved. When she had last seen him he had been an adolescent, his face still round like a baby's and his limbs as long as a man's but awkward, surprised at their own unexpected proportions. Now he was pinched and weathered. "Where is your mother?"
His face crumpled and he looked away, clinging fiercely to her hand. "She--" he began, and choked on the next word. "Left," he managed to say.
"Oh child," Elenwe said, "baby, where did she go?"
Uruvanwe shook his head, not looking up: he was crying silently. Elenwe unfolded herself from her meditation position and took him in her arms like a child, and he clung to her, shaking. She stroked his mangled hair and made soothing noises. His story made more sense now. Her brother-in-law, his father, was of Feanor's host. She looked down his back at his sword. So little Uruvanwe the smith's son was a fugitive of the Kinslaying. She sighed softly, and thought about what she would say to Turgon.
It was a long time before he was composed again, and she had the impression that he was only calm because exhaustion had numbed him. "Can you tell me now what happened?" she asked.
He sat on his feet in an instinctive and somewhat-sloppy Spring Fern position, and rubbed his flushed and tear-wet face. "He-- he was trying to throw-- to throw my friend into the water," he said, his words indistinct and sleepy. "So I- I put my sword into him. And there was blood everywhere. And then I was sorry, and I tried to stop the blood, but I couldn't. He died, he died right there." Uruvanwe covered his face, but was too subdued by weariness to shed any more tears. "So I tried to stop-- to stop them from hurting each other. And my-- my captain was angry with me." He sighed heavily. "I went to my mother and she and some of the others were leaving. They said-- she said--" He stopped, and hung his head, folding his arms tightly around his chest. "Little Mother, she told me she regrets my existence."
Elenwe was silent, shocked. Uruvanwe sat perfectly still, a hand over half of his face and his eyes closed. He was a bundle of sticks, drained of his radiance, and she wondered where he had been in the time since the Kinslaying. By the look of him, he had been wandering alone, and not eating.
"Uruvanwe," she said at last, and paused, deciding what to say. "Are you hungry?"
He raised his head sharply, and the first flicker of life she'd seen in him was in his eyes. "A little," he said, a guarded expression dampening the eagerness in his eyes. She knew he was lying, that he was fading with hunger.
"Stay here," she said. "You can sleep here, and I will bring you food. I will speak to Turgon and when all is ready I will bring you to him."
Uruvanwe nodded. "Thank you," he said, subdued, and Elenwe had little doubt that he would be asleep when she came back. But as she stood to leave he put out his hand. "My name," he said, and he had put his other hand to his face, warming it against his cheek. His voice was cracked.
"What about your name, Uruvanwe?" she asked.
"I cannot use that name now," he said, and he looked anxious. "She gave it to me, and she has taken everything back."
"Oh sweetheart," Elenwe said, and knelt again to embrace him.
"The only name she had no part in giving me is Laurefindil," he went on, stubbornly refusing to cry again. He wiped his face and pulled away, his back stiff. "I am Laurefindil now."
Elenwe put her hand on his head, gently tousling his ragged hair that, in brighter days, had become his namesake when he had visited her household as a child. Goldilocks, a little joyful golden child among her dark-haired Noldorin in-laws. "Laurefindil," she said. Not so radiant now, but still, Glorfindel.
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