“And this goes where?”
Ilmarë held the garment out in front of her for a better look. She had seen it before, during those first days on the ship. It had been in the trunk sent with her from Valinor, among the undergarments Linquendil had unable to explain.
Elrond and Ilmarë’s day together had passed all too quickly and he returned Ilmarë to her room when the afternoon grew late. There she found Haleth and Adanel laying out her clothes. Haleth had made her change into her dressing robe and then thrust the unfamiliar garment at her that she now held in her hands.
“It’s a corset, Miss Ilmarë. You wear it under your clothing, to compress your…” Adanel gestured toward her own chest with both hands, “…well, your chest. Or certain parts of it.”
Seeing Adanel’s hand movements, Ilmarë’s frown disappeared and she nodded in understanding. “I see…you mean my breasts.”
Adanel raised her eyebrows at Ilmarë’s frankness and then laughed. Haleth clucked her tongue and shook her head, and Adanel waved off her mother’s disapproval. Ilmarë had pulled the front of her robe away from her body and her frown returned as she examined her chest inside the robe.
“Yes, they are larger than I would have liked and I find them annoying at times. Do you mean to say this corset will keep them bound?”
“I would say that it will smash them and then squeeze them…” Adanel demonstrated her words by holding her hands up and crushing them into fists.
“That’s enough out of you,” Haleth interrupted her daughter’s animated explanation and held out a thin skirt. “Take your robe off and step into this.”
Ilmarë did as she was told and Haleth quickly fastened the waist of it. She took the corset from Ilmarë’s hands and then wrapped it around her chest. As Haleth began to lace the back up, Ilmarë looked down at the clothing and then at Adanel.
“These undergarments are heavier than I thought they would be. It will be like wearing two dresses, one under the other.” The corset grew tighter and Ilmarë reached into it to move her breasts to a more comfortable position. She looked down and exclaimed in disappointment. “This corset is compressing my breasts, but only to push them up. Now they are even more noticeable than before.”
Adanel picked up the dress from the bed and brought it to Ilmarë and Haleth. “That’s the purpose of it, Miss Ilmarë. Another one of the many things we women do to please men. My husband tells me men appreciate breasts far more than their owners do. I’ve no doubt Master Ereinion will appreciate your wearing a corset.”
“Men find breasts appealing?” This made no sense at first but Ilmarë thought about it as she tried to ignore that her body being jerked from side to side by Haleth’s energetic lacing efforts. She remembered that Elrond had shown interest in her breasts the night before and Ilmarë smiled to think of how delightful the results were. But to think that Ereinion would look at her in that fashion made her laugh.
“I am sorry, Adanel, but I doubt Ereinion will even notice. He is my friend and does not see me that way. The compliments he pays me are no different than the ones he gives you or Haleth, no doubt due to the silver tongue Haleth accuses him of having. It is nothing to do with me in particular.”
Adanel looked at her with disbelief. “Begging your pardon, Miss Ilmarë, but you don’t know much about the dealings between men and women, do you? I truly hope I don’t seem rude in asking. It’s just…well, I thought someone of your age would know more. If you don’t mind my asking, how old are you?”
“Much older than I appear to be,” Ilmarë answered with a smile, “but there are times when age has nothing to do with experience, and this would be one of them. You are correct – I know very little about things of this nature. I am happy to have made your acquaintance, Adanel. You can help me with this, for desire and attraction are things that were not discussed among my kin.”
“And there’s a reason for that,” Haleth said, having finished her lacing and now began pulling the laces tight, “those aren’t subjects to be discussed except in the most basic of terms and only when necessary. I don’t know where my daughter came by the habit of speaking her mind about it…”
“Ouch!” Ilmarë shouted and tried to twist and look behind her to see what Haleth was doing that was so painful. Something was digging into her sides and Ilmarë ran her hands over the corset. “There is something hard inside the fabric, Haleth, and the tighter you pull the more they force their way into my skin. What is inside this corset?”
“It’s bones, Miss Ilmarë. They keep the sides stiff and straight.” Haleth paused only long enough to answer the question and then began her tugging again.
“Bones?” Another jerk made Ilmarë grit her teeth and exclaim, “Oh, Haleth, that hurts!” She remembered Círdan’s explanation of the hard structure beneath her skin and would have exhaled in relief if she had been able. “The bones I have serve their function well and I do not require any more. So you see, you can remove the corset. It is not needed.”
“Oh but it is needed, Miss Ilmarë. You must dress like a proper lady now that you’ll be keeping company with the King and his folk.” Haleth’s tongue peeked out of the side of her mouth as she tried to hold the laces tight enough to tie them.
“Neither you nor Adanel wear a corset, Haleth. Your breasts, in particular, are far more ample than mine.”
Haleth gave her another dour look. “Neither Adanel nor I are ladies, Miss Ilmarë - we’re servants. Ladies must be properly dressed at all times. But, even so, we wear corsets from time to time, when the occasion requires. There, now you’re all finished.”
Haleth stepped back to admire her handiwork but Ilmarë was less than appreciative of the results. She gasped and pointed toward her chest.
“Surely you do not expect me to go downstairs like this? My breasts look like a glass of water about to spill over. I was told that it was proper to keep my body covered in public, not leave parts of it out on display.”
Haleth took the dress from Adanel and helped Ilmarë into it, then moved behind her to fasten it. “Now look, Miss Ilmarë - your dress covers everything up, nice and proper. There’s just a hint of it showing and that’s all men need to see. Although there’s those women who’ll wear dresses cut so low that I’m surprised their water doesn’t spill out of their glass, if you catch my meaning.” She looked up at Ilmarë and shook her head. “You seem a good deal taller, holding yourself straight like that. You’ll have to come sit in the chair.”
Ilmarë shifted uncomfortably as she walked to the dressing table. “I cannot help but to hold myself straight with these planks strapped to my sides. It seems to be the only way to keep them from digging into my flesh.”
“You’ll get used to it, dear. Just you wait. Let’s see if we can’t do something with your hair.” Haleth waited for Ilmarë to sit in the chair and then began briskly running a brush through her hair.
“Ouch!” Ilmarë exclaimed again. “I was not aware that preparing for dinner was so unpleasant. Could you brush my hair instead, Adanel?”
Adanel was bringing Ilmarë’s shoes from the wardrobe; when she reached the dressing table she gave Ilmarë a sympathetic look.
“I’ve been under my mother’s brush enough times to know that it’s best just to abide it and be done as quickly as possible. But I will help style your hair and see if we can’t end your misery a little sooner.”
Haleth paused in mid-stroke to wave the brush at Adanel. “You’d best hush or you’ll be under my brush again. And I don’t mean your hair either. Impertinent children need a good swat now and again, no matter their age.”
Adanel laughed at her mother’s empty threat and began helping with the task of untangling the glossy black hair. Ilmarë closed her eyes and let her head fall forward while the two women attended to her hair. She had been weary all day and still felt as though her body needed sleep. The fatigue only seemed to be made worse by the throbbing in her head.
It is pain, the same as I felt in my finger when the sword cut the skin.
There was pain in her chest, as well. It had begun earlier in the day when walking through the city with Elrond. Her body obviously was not pleased with the trip and voiced its complaints in the form of being slow and leaden. Ilmarë felt as though she had to drag it every step and could not catch her breath. Elrond had noticed her difficulty and ended their walk. Her fatigue worried him and he decided they would finish their tour of the city another time, taking her back to the coach and instructing the driver to take them for a ride in the countryside instead.
Ilmarë had not complained; she was not only glad of being allowed to take a rest, but also of the privacy they were given in the closed coach. There, she had been given some respite from the grievances of her body. She had grown impatient with its demanding nature – always there was something this weak form wanted or needed, and when denied, its protests were taxing and bothersome. During the coach ride her body had been satiated for a time by the unhurried and gentle display of what pleasures were to be found in Elrond’s touch. But now that the comfort of his presence had been removed her Mortal form had become a burden once again, resuming its lethargic decline back to never-ceasing laments.
The tugging and pulling of the brush on her hair ceased and Ilmarë felt Haleth and Adanel begin their next task, moving their fingers through her hair and across her scalp as they worked. Relaxed tingles spread through her aching body and with her body distracted again, Ilmarë’s mind began to drift. She heard someone calling her name and her head jerked up but her eyes were not as equally cooperative; they were heavy and burned when they opened. She blinked a few times and made note of how overly warm the room had become.
“What do you think, Miss Ilmarë?” Ilmarë looked up and saw Adanel waiting expectantly, obviously having repeated her words. “Do you like your hair this way?” Seeing the look on Ilmarë’s face, Adanel frowned. “Are you feeling poorly? Mother, check her skin and see if it’s warm.”
“No…no,” Ilmarë said, waving Haleth’s hand away, “I am just overly tired today. Too many goings on in too short a time, I would imagine.”
Ilmarë looked into the mirror that hung on the wall above the dressing table and was amazed that Haleth and Adanel had managed to make the thick mass of hair look so refined. They had pulled the hair away from her face with braids on each side of her head, all woven with silver ribbons to match her dress. In the back, her hair was pulled up into a loose bun held by a large jeweled clip. Ilmarë smiled and moved her head around to look at it from all directions.
The freedom of the airy form in her memories and dreams was still something she longed for, but now there were times when Ilmarë could see some beauty in this mortal form, limited though it was. Yet, she had not known there were so many ways it could be improved upon. Now she realized she would have to work within the boundaries of this poor substitute for her true form, reminding herself that Elves and Mortals seemed to share equally low standards of beauty. If she learned to make this body more appealing, then perhaps it would spur Elrond to make his decision all the sooner.
Despite her newfound enthusiasm for her body, Ilmarë watched Adanel hesitantly as she took a jar from the table and dipped her finger into it. Ilmarë recoiled as Adanel moved closer with the obvious intention of putting the substance on her lips.
“It’s only salve with berry juice mixed with it, Miss Ilmarë, to add a little color to your lips.”
Ilmarë obliged and held still while Adanel applied the salve, which was surprisingly fragrant and smooth. Adanel smiled and nodded. “That looks nice. We’ll put on a little perfume, you’ll be ready to go downstairs.” She retrieved a bottle from the dressing table and handed it to Ilmarë.
Ilmarë took it and looked at Adanel. “Where did this come from? I do not have any perfume.”
“I found it tucked away among the clothes I unpacked – the ones from large trunk we left at the foot of your bed.”
The trunk sent with her from Valinor…Ilmarë ran her fingers over the surface of the glass bottle. Small red flowers floated inside, suspended in the clear liquid. Her dream of Eressëa came back to her and she smiled wistfully. Tears stung her eyes to think of the caring friend who had placed such a thoughtful reminder among her things.
“Melian…” Ilmarë whispered and held her breath, waiting for the tears to recede.
“Is that the name of the flower, Miss Ilmarë?” Haleth asked, peering over her shoulder. “I can’t say that I’ve ever seen it before.”
“No, Haleth, its name is lissuin, and it is little wonder you have not seen it before; the flower grows only on Númenor and Tol Eressëa. It is also known as hearts ease for its scent lightens a troubled heart. My dearest friend loves lissuin and always scents herself with its oil. It was she who packed it among my things.”
Seeing the disbelieving glance exchanged by Haleth and Adanel, Ilmarë broke the wax seal around the stopper and placed some of the perfume on their wrists. A breeze of fragrance drifted along the air and filled their senses – it smelled of freshness and flowers, of mists and memory…
A thought came to Adanel from seemingly nowhere, of a hill near the foot of the Blue Mountains that she frequented each Spring, where butterflies danced and flowers swayed a greeting to her. For Adanel the lissuin smelled of green grass, blue skies and gentle breezes.
A fire crackling in the hearth of the kitchen was the memory that settled upon Haleth; and the sound of it was accompanied by the creak of an oven door opening and closing. For Haleth the lissuin smelled of biscuits and tea freshly made each evening by her mother before they sat close together and spoke of the day past.
Ilmarë smiled to see the contentment on their faces, but was herself quite unprepared for memories to stretch their embrace from the recesses of her mind. The scent to her was the rich smell of earth and rain mingled with the evergreen smell of yew and cedar – the trees that bordered the gardens of Lórien. She heard the golden sound of Eönwë’s laugh, felt the quiet reassurance of Melian’s hand in hers, and was warmed by the silver glow of Thingol’s smile. A greater presence slowly enveloped the others, wrapping Ilmarë securely in the strength and wisdom it emanated.
An image appeared in her mind, growing gradually brighter like the dawning sun. In a cavernous room of blue and white marble was a wide, doorless opening. Before it was a great throne and upon that great throne sat a great man in robes of sapphire blue. Stars had been carved into the high back of the throne and they cast a soft light, illuminating his bent head crowned with hair darker than the vast moonless night beyond the open doorway. Slowly, he lifted his head toward the opening in the marble wall. The light danced along the river of hair flowing down his back, and he stared off into the distance with eyes grey as a rising storm…
“I never heard of anything like this in all my born days.”
Haleth’s wondering voice disrupted Ilmarë’s thoughts. Ilmarë had not recognized the man in her image, but felt she knew him all the same.
She had remembered the lissuin was said to bring ease and comfort, but she had not remembered how it accomplished that feat. Ilmarë opened her eyes and looked again at the red flowers floating in the bottle she held. Her body had been soothed of its aches and throbbing head for the time being, and even the horribly uncomfortable corset now seemed tolerable. Her heart lifted further to hear the knock on her bedroom door.
“That’ll be Master Elrond. He’s always right on time. Put your shoes on, Miss Ilmarë, and I’ll go tell him you’ll be right out.”
Haleth had assumed her no-nonsense manner again and waggled her hands at Ilmarë to hurry before she bustled to the door. Ilmarë sat the bottle on the dressing table, bent to slip on her shoes, and stood. She was about to follow Haleth to the door when Adanel caught her attention, silently motioning for Ilmarë to follow. Haleth opened the door as Ilmarë followed Adanel to the wardrobe on the far wall. Adanel opened the wardrobe and reached up to pull a folded piece of clothing from one of the shelves.
“Wear the corset to dinner, then hide it away later tonight before you go to bed,” she whispered and patted the garment in her hand. “Mother calls this a chemise, but most women just call it a slip. You’ll be fine wearing this beneath your clothes from day to day. There’s more here in your wardrobe, both long and short, whichever you need.” She gave Ilmarë a conspiratorial wink and replaced the slip on the shelf.
Ilmarë sighed in relief. With a look of gratitude, she nodded thanks to Adanel and they went to the bedroom door where Haleth waited.
“Master Elrond is in the sitting room waiting for you. We’ll see you downstairs.” Haleth winked and patted Ilmarë’s cheek. “You look beautiful, Miss Ilmarë.” She frowned and pressed her hand closer to the skin. “Oh my…you’re very warm, dear. I think we should have Master Elrond take a look at you.”
Ilmarë smiled and covered the hand on her cheek for a moment before pulling it away. “But Haleth, he will see me…as soon as I am allowed to go into the next room. As far as my appearance, I believe it is solely due to the effort you and Adanel put forth, and it was very kind of you to do this for me.”
Haleth gave Ilmarë a pleased look before opening the door and though she was still worried, she relented and shooed Ilmarë out.
Across the sitting room, Elrond sat in a chair but rose quickly when he saw Ilmarë. Had she not already been light-headed, the sight of him would have been enough to make her so. She was disappointed that he was dressed formally again in a flowing blue robe, but was somewhat mollified to see the front of the robe was open. Ilmarë’s eyes traveled over Elrond’s body, clad in a black shirt and trousers, and briefly pondered why the sight of his body had suddenly become so important to her. She hurried to meet him and took his outstretched hand. He pressed a kiss to the back of her hand, and then used it to pull her closer.
“I was beginning to grow impatient for want of seeing you again, but the wait seems of little consequence now. You look lovely.”
“As do you, Elrond.” His crooked smile appeared when she spoke and made Ilmarë smile as well.
“Men are not lovely, Ilmarë, not even Elven men. We are dashing or handsome, or even attractive, but never lovely.”
“Certainly you are all of those things, but may I not find you lovely, as well?”
He sighed and said, “I can find no reasonable argument while your beauty distracts me. You may call me lovely if you wish.” Elrond glanced at the bedroom door, which Haleth was just closing, and then winked at Ilmarë. “But not within earshot of others, please.”
Ilmarë laughed at his secretive tone and Elrond lowered his head to kiss her, unable to resist the temptation any longer. He ran a hand along her cheek as he kissed her, and pulled back to study her with a frown.
“Your skin feels warm, Ilmarë,” he touched her cheek with his fingers, “and your face is flushed. I thought you were merely tired this afternoon, but clearly this is something more than just fatigue. Do you feel ill?”
Ilmarë did not feel the terrible clenching of her stomach that she associated with illness, so she shook her head. “No, I do not feel ill. There is pain in my head and I am weary, but no doubt that has something to do with Haleth’s handling of me the past few hours. I believe that now I know what the parcels on ships feel like after they have been manhandled from the decks to the docks.”
“We should not go downstairs, Ilmarë. It would be better if you stayed here and rested. Haleth can bring something up for you to eat, and I will stay and tend to you.”
“Please, Elrond, I would like to go downstairs for dinner. Afterward I will go straight to bed and you may tend to me as much as you like. But I would rest much easier if you were to stay with me again tonight.”
He studied Ilmarë as she waited for his response. Elrond realized he would be hard pressed to deny her anything, and dearly hoped that Ilmarë had not come to that realization as well. He smiled to think of how difficult it could become for him if Ilmarë knew she wielded this type of power. Men had to at least keep up the pretense of indecision, lest they be defenseless against feminine wiles.
“We shall see. Before we go to dinner, we must stop at my rooms. I will make you a tea to ease your fever before it grows worse.”
“We should go downstairs first, Elrond, please. I am certain Ereinion is waiting for us, and I will be fine until after dinner.”
He hesitated, but nodded. “All right then. It goes against my better judgment, but if you do not feel ill, then I suppose it will not hurt to wait a short time. But we cannot stay long.”
They left the sitting room and went downstairs, walking slowly down the long hall that led to the dining room. The walk downstairs had tired Ilmarë even further and her chest began to hurt again. Trying to put the discomfort from her mind, she looked at Elrond.
“What am I to tell Ereinion if he asks what I thought of the city?”
“Why would you not tell him of what you saw in Mithlond today?”
“Because I did not see much of Mithlond at all. I spent most of the day with my eyes on you, or in the coach with my eyes closed while you kissed me. Now that I think on it, I would say they were closed much more than they were open.”
“Then we can only hope Ereinion does not ask too many questions.”
Elrond wanted to take Ilmarë in his arms and kiss her thoroughly as he had done several times that day, but he could not. They had reached the dining room door and he knew Ereinion waited inside. He settled for a quick kiss instead, and opened the door.
Inside the dining room, Ereinion’s laughter filled the air. He sat at the table with a glass of wine in his hand, amused by something his companion said. At the sight of the silver-haired Elf rising from his chair, Ilmarë released Elrond’s arm and rushed toward the table. Círdan came around the table and opened his arms to meet her with a warm embrace.
“Ilmarë, surely you could not have missed me as much as that after only one day,” he said.
“But I did miss you. I did not know you would be here this evening. Why did you come?”
“To see you, of course. I wanted to see if you were settled into your new home.”
Elrond thought of what Ilmarë had told him about Círdan, and he frowned as he watched them.
Ereinion saw the bothered look and was ashamed to admit that for a brief moment he found some enjoyment in it. Guilt urged Ereinion to put his friend’s mind at ease and so he walked to Elrond and rested a hand on his shoulder.
“Círdan is neglecting to mention that he is in Mithlond to pay a visit to a very close friend who happens to live here in the city. But she is not expecting him until later this evening, and so he accepted my invitation to dinner.”
Elrond was relieved to hear this, and relieved to see Ilmarë step back and gasp in exaggeration.
“Shame on you, Círdan, trying to deceive me into believing that you came here out of worry for me.” Ilmarë shook her head at him and smiled, having known full well why Círdan visited Mithlond.
“But I did come to see how you were, Ilmarë.” Círdan said with a rakish smile, “although I did not say it was the only reason I came to Mithlond.” He spread his hands out in a pleading gesture. “My house is very empty now that you are gone. I could not bring myself to spend another unpleasant and boring evening there alone.”
Ilmarë gave a drawn-out sigh. “I would not have you condemned to so cruel a fate, and so I will overlook your duplicity.” She smiled and shook her head. “Would this be the same woman who has garnered so much of your attention in recent weeks?”
“Of course it is,” Círdan said with mock indignation. “What do you take me for?”
Elrond relaxed to see the obvious friendship between the two and went to Ilmarë’s side. Círdan turned his smile to Elrond now.
”Good evening, Elrond. I see you are still escorting our fair visitor from the west. And Ereinion tells me that you have offered to accompany Ilmarë to Ost-In-Edhil come Spring. She is fortunate to have such a dedicated guide.” Círdan looked Ilmarë up and down, and nodded in appreciation. “I would say that you have made the most of the feminine influences to be found here. You look very lady-like. Why, you are even wearing jewelry.”
Círdan looked at the necklace she wore and then held out her hand to show him the opal ring on her finger. “There were similar items packed away in my things. I would like to speak to you about them after dinner, if you have time.”
Círdan grew serious and nodded. “If you need to speak with me, I will have time. I also wish to discuss your plans for this trip to Eregion.”
“We should take our seats now,” Ereinion told them, “dinner will be served soon.”
Elrond pulled out a chair for Ilmarë before taking his seat next to her. When she sat, Ilmarë’s head began to throb again with greater intensity than before. The pain grew worse and she tried to sit as still as possible, staring at the table while she listened to Elrond, Ereinion and Círdan talk. Then again, it was not so much listening as it was just being aware of their voices; she could not have said what it was they spoke of.
Ilmarë shifted in her chair and could feel moisture collecting on her forehead and neck. Over the course of just a few seconds, the air in the room had become hot and stifling, and she slowly became aware of how difficult it was to breathe. Her chest had grown heavy and now required force to move the air in and out. Sitting in the chair made the hard edges of the corset dig into her skin with every movement she made. The only time it did not hurt was when she held herself perfectly straight and still, but Ilmarë found she could not do this for long because it was impossible for her to take a full breath in that position.
Ilmarë sluggishly noticed that the first course of dinner was being served, and a bowl of soup had been placed in front of her. The steam from the bowl wafted up to her face and the heat made her dizzy.
“Ilmarë? I think we should go back upstairs now.” Elrond leaned close and examined her face as he spoke.
Ilmarë placed both hands over her sides. “Perhaps we should. I do not believe I could eat with this horrible corset binding me so tightly. I can barely breathe, let alone swallow food.”
Across the table, Círdan shook his head in consternation. “A corset, Ilmarë? I fail to see why you would choose to wear one. All the women I have known say corsets are uncomfortable and unnecessary. Had I known wearing one would be among the things taught to you, I would have instructed you on women’s undergarments myself. Clearly I have more knowledge of them than the females who reside here.”
Círdan noticed Elrond’s stern look and remembered too late that Elrond was the only person at the table unaware of Ilmarë’s inexperience with her Mortal form. Over the years he had become accustomed to speaking freely in Elrond and Ereinion’s presence.
Ilmarë found that the pain in her head, in her chest and now her sides made her unable to concentrate on anything but the discomfort and she did not hesitate to answer Círdan’s question.
“I did not choose to wear it – I was coerced into wearing it. I was told that not only was it necessary for ladies to dress properly, but also that it would give men a greater appreciation of my breasts. Is the admiration of breasts truly so important to a man’s sense of well being that women will suffer such unpleasantness?”
The men at the table were fortunate enough to avoid answering that question, although their reprieve was not a pleasant one. Ilmarë straightened to attempt a deep breath and her throat squeezed shut. She attempted another breath but her body refused to accept air. It repeatedly forced the air out through her mouth, over and over, so violently that her throat ached and body shook. A wet, rattling noise came from deep inside her chest. Ilmarë’s head swam, so much so that she was not even aware of her body going limp as it surrendered to the lack of breath.
Círdan saw Ilmarë slump in her chair and called out her name, moving quickly around the table toward her. Elrond saw the movement from the corner of his eye but he was not swift enough to stop her sudden descent. His hands met only empty air when he reached for her. Only Ereinion was close enough to reach Ilmarë. He shoved his chair from the table and caught her before she hit the floor. Círdan helped ease Ilmarë to the floor and Ereinion carefully cradled her head in his lap.
The hair he pushed away from her face was damp and clung to her forehead. Ereinion touched her skin and frowned at Elrond as he knelt next to Ilmarë.
“She is burning with fever and I can hear the breath rattle in her chest from here. Why was I not told that she was ill?”
“I am to blame. I should have seen to her before we came downstairs, but she did not wish to make you wait.” Elrond’s eyebrows knitted together and he placed his hand over her chest, checking the pace of her heart. His jaw clenched when he felt its rapid beat. “Her fever has risen too quickly, it did not rage so high when we left her room. The rattle you hear is fluid collecting in her chest and it tells me Ilmarë was more ill than she let on. Why did she not tell me when I asked?” He ran his hand across her cheek and told Ereinion and Círdan, “We have to take her upstairs immediately…”
Their voices were muffled and distant, but Ilmarë felt Elrond’s touch plainly enough. The weight on her seemed to bear down harder and her chest began to heave with the effort to take in air. She grabbed Elrond’s hand and opened her eyes to look at him in panic.
“Elrond, please…I cannot breathe…”
“That corset has to come off,” Círdan said brusquely. He did not wait for anyone else to act. He moved Ilmarë to her side, grabbed the back of her dress, and yanked it open.
Elrond released Ilmarë’s hand and immediately began tugging at the laces, trying to work them loose. Círdan did not watch Elrond’s efforts for more than a moment before he growled in frustration and reached into the deep pocket of his robe. He produced a small knife, unsheathed it and pushed Elrond’s hands aside. Círdan slid the blade under the laces and sliced through them with a single pass. Free of the binding pressure of the corset, Ilmarë’s body visibly relaxed but her breathing remained shallow and rattled in her chest.
Ereinion frowned and placed his hand on her cheek, then looked at Elrond. “She is unconscious, Elrond. Freeing her of the corset was of little use.”
“It will help her breathe easier until I can get her upstairs.”
Elrond stood suddenly and lifted Ilmarë from the floor. Ereinion heart clenched to see her head fall back and her arm dangle lifelessly to the side. Her body’s only movement was her still-heaving chest. Elrond carried her to the door; Ereinion and Círdan made to follow, but Elrond shook his head.
“Ereinion, find Haleth. Have her bring fresh linens and some of her large kettles to my bedroom. The things I need to tend to Ilmarë are there. Tell Haleth to be quick about it.” Elrond reached the doorway and jerked his head to the side. “Círdan, come with me. I will need your help.”
Círdan opened the doors and Elrond rushed through, holding Ilmarë close as he carried her. Ereinion gave a last worried look as Círdan and Elrond hurried down the hallway with Ilmarë’s limp form and then hastened to the kitchen in search of Haleth.
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.