Last Hope: 7. Part 2 - Chapter 1

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7. Part 2 - Chapter 1

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Inside was a whirlwind of singing and dancing. The evening had begun mildly enough at Elrond's table, and after supper the household gravitated to the Hall of Fire for a night of storytelling and songs. It would be Gilraen's first visit there, since her arrival three days prior. She recalled noticing a particularly brilliant gleam in Glorfindel's eye, as they walked among the procession towards the Hall. Soon after, she had been enraptured by the tales that were told -some of lesser or greater significance in history, but all magnificent to her- and enchanted by the talents of the elvish minstrels, whose voices depicted the songs in her mind as if she watched the happenings unfold before her eyes.

And there had been mead served round, and wine. Then thanks to Glorfindel and others of similar mood, dancing followed, round and round some more.

Outside, Gilraen retched again, and staggering out of the shrubbery knelt by the fountain in the courtyard. She leaned over the stone to drink from the water, cleansing her mouth of the foul taste. Depleted and queasy she sank to the ground for a moment of rest, cooling her brow with a dampened hand.

"You should retire, lady," said an Elf standing nearby.

Gilraen's initial reply surfaced in a groan, but then she replied, "You are kind, but nay. I left my son asleep in the Hall of Fire. I must return there." The illness came so suddenly that she only had time to see Aragorn still asleep upon a pillow before rushing herself outside. Once in the fresh air, there had been a deceptive moment when her stomach settled. But three steps later she was 'feeding the flies', as the men in her family would say.

Telmoth came closer, and offered Gilraen her hand. "One must be wary of the good intentions of Elves, when Elves intend to help one become good and inebriated."

Gilraen took the offered hand and stood with a smile, but ignored the double meaning behind the other's statement. "I notice the plentiful beverages have not affected you adversely."

Telmoth shrugged. "And in truth, I noticed that you had not accepted any drink save water. But never mind, if you wish not to speak of it."

They walked together back to the Hall of Fire. Gilraen stopped before the entryway. "Delicious as the food is, I am unused to Elven fare. And this week has been full of turmoil and worrying…" she looked to Telmoth. "I would not wish anyone to fret over me, or make any changes on my account."

"I think that I alone marked your hasty departure, and I will not speak of its cause. All the same, few have ever been ill in Rivendell; it is a strange thing."

The Elf seemed unconcerned, despite her words. Gilraen tried to match her manner. "I believe that of the Elves. But I am mortal."

Telmoth tossed her head- during Gilraen's few days among Elves, she had begun to recognize that as an indication of annoyance. "Elves do not sicken, lady, save by poison or foul craft. I spoke only of the mortals who have taken residence here in times past – and few of them suffered any affliction."

Gilraen shifted, uncomfortable. "And what of those who did?"

"We used them as fishing bait," Telmoth said smiling. "But not until after Master Elrond deemed there was no chance of recovery."

Gilraen's gaze drifted as she remembered her arrival at the beginning of the week. Elrond's hands seemed gentle upon his son as they worked under the candlelight that night, but his eyes had easily pierced her heart earlier that day. In a conversational tone, she said, "As a guest, I would feel wrong to trouble my host with any ailment of mine. Perhaps Elves judge things differently; yet there must be others here skilled in the healing arts?"

"Yes indeed, and well do they care for sickly horses and injured Elves." Gilraen heard what was unsaid: 'but not humans'. Telmoth waved in response to the beckoning of an Elf beyond the doorway. "I beg your pardon, lady." She entered the hall.

Gilraen followed soon after, and joined her son beside his pillow. He slept, and indeed had not moved since she left. At last the Elves ceased their dancing, and the minstrels played their instruments soft and slowly. Some Elves sat on the floor or in chairs, and others stood; but all gathered round to hear what stories were to be told.

From her position, Gilraen could not see who began to speak, but the sound was familiar, and she guessed it was Lindir. His voice was light in tone normally, but subdued now, the mood was akin to the fire in the great hearth, forbidding and ethereal. In Sindarin he wove his tale without the fluidity she would expect. As his words flickered, smoke from the fire danced through the air, and it seemed that there was a mist before her eyes. And then it was dusk in the Angle.

The rain began lightly, but was soon beating upon the porch like a patter of drums. She stood against the house, barely out of the storm, heedless of the chill and the thunder rolling in the distance, and lightning like a clapping of godly hands. He waved to her as he passed on horseback, headed to the barn, and she waited. Soon he came running, and stood before her, drenched and shivering. She could not stop her laughter in time. His eyes, smoldering gray, twinkled with amusement that betrayed his attempt to feign indignation. He looked like a soggy bear, she informed him, shaking in its own fur. He growled and embraced her tightly, grinning at her gasp of surprise at the shared cold and wet. Now, he said, they would both need to undress.

In the house all was quiet; their son slept upon the only bed in the only bedroom. They took to the couch, and each other. Eagerly he bore her down, but his hands were gentle, and they made sure that her head lay upon a pillow. She could not feel the calluses, though they had been there. Not a wet bear now, she teased, and stripped him of his leather and cloth, running her fingers through the coarse fur underneath, feeling the clammy skin respond to her fingertips, loosening here and hardening there. Not wet, but still a bear, he corrected, and a hungry one at that, and to prove it he feasted upon her, inside and out, deeply and passionately. A skilled harper could not have kept pace with them in that hour.

She could not feel it, but she remembered what it felt like. And his scent, heady and raw as the forest after a storm, was tinged with brimstone – yet the hearth had been unlit. It was not quite as it had been. Later he returned from their bedchamber with dry clothes for them both. They dressed and she talked while he ate. Finished he sat back, and there was a note upon the table where his hand had been. It was for her to read, in case of the worst, he said. She refused, saying she did not want it, would not need it, could not take it. He told her to give it back to him, when he returned, and if he did not return, to give it to Elrond Halfelven in Rivendell, a place free and fair between the mountains and the sea. Take this burden as a gift from me, he said, for the promise held more meaning than the possibility. But the promise was meaningless without the possibility – yet she vowed to go, to follow Eärendil's star even if she rode into darkness.

"…in Mordor where the shadows are."

Not thunder now, or before, but applause. Gilraen sat up in a start. She blinked a moment at the pillow her head had rested upon, and quickly wiped dampness from her cheeks. Beyond her sat Elrond upon his seat, a harp in his hands, and his eyes met hers evenly. Clear gray reflected the firelight like lightning in the evening sky, and shone with tears of his own; he was sorry as he looked upon her, and Gilraen knew not why.

"Ah, but the Fall of Gil-galad is a saddening lay, is it not?" said one Elf to another as they passed by.

***


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.

Story Information

Author: AfterEver

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Stewards

Genre: General

Rating: General

Last Updated: 01/08/04

Original Post: 07/28/03

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