12. Choices of the Heart
Shivering she looked about her, the night was cold and she had left her cloak behind. She had no idea where she was. Rubbing her arms, she walked on, still dazed. A few campfires flickered nearby. Suddenly, she was nearly bowled over by a small figure, who rushed out of the darkness and grabbed hold of her legs.
"Gil! Gil!" Confusion soon turned to an amazed smile, when she saw who it was.
"Dalbur!" Matilda's voice scolding voice approached. "What have I told you about running off?"
Gildinwen bent down to hug the child. His tight arms about her neck felt so good.
His mother hurried up, a happy grin of recognition spreading over her face.
"Hello Matilda," she stood up, unbidden a smile came to her.
The other woman looked about. "Are you alone?"
"Yes." Gil looked a little sheepish.
Matilda examined her more closely, taking in the fine dress, the lack of warm clothing and the tear-stained face. She nodded knowingly, "A lover's quarrel is it?"
"Something like that."
"Come and sit by the fire for a while, have some tea, it'll make you feel better."
Gildinwen sipped the hot tea, a borrowed blanket draped about her shoulders. Matilda chattered with news and gossip, allowing her guest to sit quietly. Dalbur played merrily around them.
"Daruth has met a really lovely girl." She smiled happily, "That's where he is now." She leaned forward conspiratorially, "I think they'll wed soon."
The homely atmosphere comforted Gildinwen and she started to relax, amused by Matilda's anecdotes, and laughing fondly at Dalbur's antics.
In the middle of a game, he abruptly came to a halt, gazing up past Gildinwen with an earnest face.
"Are you an Elf?"
"I am." Elrond's deep voice set up a resonance in Gil's heart.
Dalbur's voice was awestruck. "Do you know Eärendil?"
Elrond walked forward into the firelight, his Elven cloak shimmering. He had girt on his sword, and had her wrap draped over one arm. He looked down kindly at the child, "Yes, indeed, EÃ¤rendil was my father."
The boy's eyes stretched wide in his face, "Did you sail in his ship, in the Vingilot?"
Elrond shook his head, "No, alas. He departed over the Sea when I was still a young child."
"Oh." Disappointment curled the lad's mouth downwards, then he looked up. "Have you come to take Gil home?"
"Yes, I have."
"Good." Dalbur nodded his head solemnly, "It's not safe to be walking about by oneself at night-time."
Everyone laughed. Gildinwen stood up and folding Matilda's blanket, walked over to return it to her friend.
"Thank you." She pressed the older woman's hand.
"Don't mention it, lass." She leaned forward with a knowing whisper, "I should think everything will be alright now," she motioned with her eyes in the Elf-Lord's direction.
Gildinwen bent to hug Dalbur, and then crossed to where Elrond held her cloak ready for her. He laid it gently across her shoulders, his touch soft, and they walked together into the night.
Once they were out of sight and earshot of the others, he turned and took her hand. His voice was low and urgent. "We must make haste, yet go quietly. There has been an incursion by the enemy. We know not yet how many, or what they seek, but I will not rest easy till you are safely back at the camp."
She nodded, and wrapping her cloak about her, followed him as quietly as she could. Inside her mind raced, and her heart beat fast. He came for me!
About halfway back, crossing a broken and dry riverbed, Elrond stopped, and held up his hand. She froze, her ears straining but could hear nothing. He lowered his hand and they walked on. The sound of the first arrow came but a fraction of a second before she felt the wind of its path against her cheek. She did not hear the second, but felt its bite burn down her left forearm. She thrust a hand over her mouth to stifle the cry, her eyes large with fright.
"Quickly!" Elrond breathed, pulling her into the dark lee of the bank. He lifted his Elven cloak and she ducked in to shelter beneath the concealing folds. She needed no instruction to remain silent and unmoving. Above the other bank two dark creatures slunk, their long arms and crooked backs marking them out as Orcs.
"Well, where are they?" hissed one.
"They were right here. I hit the girl, I tell you."
"You?! That was my arrow."
"Hssshh! What's that?"
The sound of horses and men's voices came in on the breeze.
"Come on, let's get out of here." They skulked off, back the way they had come.
Gildinwen relaxed slightly. Elrond remained motionless. She was very aware of his strong arm about her shoulder, the warmth of his body close to hers, and his soft breath in her hair. She could not have said how long they waited, but after a long while she felt his hand leave the hilt of his sword, and his body turn towards hers. Both his arms encircled her, and briefly held her to him, his lips brushing the top of her head. A tide of liquid fire swept through her, and she quivered from head to foot. He stepped back, his face hidden in the darkness, and slid his hands across her shoulders, and down to take her hands.
He stopped short, and lifted a glistening hand. "You're bleeding."
"It's just a graze."
He ran his long fingers gently over the wound. "Even so, it may be poisoned. Let us hurry back. I will tend it for you."
"There." Elrond finished tying up the neat dressing and laid a gentle hand on her bandaged arm. His tent was comfortably appointed without being luxurious, a thick carpet covered the floor, the raised sleeping couch where they sat was strewn with soft blankets, and on a chest in the corner a lamp spilled its gentle light.
The air was heavy with unspoken words, and when he reached to take her hands, Gildinwen felt both a rush of anticipation, and a strange peace. She looked up to match his direct gaze. Her dark eyes meeting his grey ones.
"I have been a fool," his voice was very intense. "Three times over tonight, I nearly lost you. Once to that upstart of a boy, once through my own jealous arrogance, and once..." the grey eyes closed briefly, and his hands tightened on hers. "Then these words would have remained unspoken forever." His face searched hers intently. "Who are you, woman? Where did you come from, that when I look in my heart I find you there?"
She looked into his face, the beauty of it making her heart leap, "Long has it been my deepest and most secret wish to hear such words from your lips." she whispered.
"Long did I try to hold my heart against you, but it was always a lost cause." A wondering smile crept over his face. "You took me by surprise the very first moment I saw you.
"I was at the side of Gil-galad, it was the first day of battle. The enemy was strong, many times we clashed but we could not push them back. The Men of the right flank started to weaken and lose heart. If they broke, it would go badly for us. Time and again, we sounded the advance but still they fell back. Then from their midst, a horse, red-gold against the darkness of the field. His rider just a girl, but mithril was bright on her brow, above her streamed the legendary banner of Amarnon, and her eyes shone with a light such as I had never seen. Straight at the foe she rode, and cut him down. Behind her rose a tide of men, and they charged that battlefield and drove the enemy before them like leaves before the storm.
"And when those Orcs came across the field, seasoned soldiers ran for their lives, but you would not leave your friends. Tall and proud you stood, looking them straight in the eye. I had no need of Gil-galad's command to lead the sally. I would have stood beside you that day against all the might of Mordor, though I had had but a single arrow."
Gildinwen felt a slow release of joy flow in her veins. Could it be true?
"Then the next day when I brought your horse, you smiled at me with such innocent happiness it was like the sunlight on my face. I wanted that light, that joy, that feeling of vitality, of life that you awoke in me, but I dared not welcome it. For many months I tried to deny you, fought to keep you out, and the more I wanted not to look at you, the more I could not help but see you. And day by day, with each smile, each soft word, with every look of love in your eye, I weakened a little more."
" Oh my lord." She reached up to touch the face that had long been in her dreams. "My love. Why did you not speak of this sooner?"
His face furrowed, and a dark shadow came over it. "I was afraid." he whispered. "Afraid to trust you, afraid to love you... afraid to lose you." He looked away. "Elves have not the resilience of the Secondborn, and already I have lost so many. My father Eärendil, I hardly remember, only my mother's sorrow as she waited for him. My mother," his voice broke, and the edges stabbed at Gildinwen's heart, "cast herself into the sea while I looked on. My step-father, whom, strange as it may seem, I loved, pursued the Silmaril until it sundered his mind and he sank into madness. My brother Elros, chose a mortal life, leaving me alone again in this world. All made their choice, and all took a path away from me."
Gildinwen's eyes filled with tears, "So much loneliness," she reached a hand to stroke his dark head. "Long has my heart has cried out to bring you comfort, my arms have yearned to hold you, and my lips to kiss away your pain."
"And yet you," he turned towards her, "have sorrows of your own to bear. Mother, father, brother, all gone, still your heart dares to love, and you have compassion to spare even for a broken creature of the enemy." His eyes lit, his smile returned, and the shadow vanished. He lifted her hand to his perfect lips. "And so now I choose. For three thousand years, I have guarded my heart carefully, but now I surrender it."
"Alas, my lord." Gildinwen's face was troubled, "I fear you have chosen poorly, for I am but a mortal woman, and my years on the Earth short in number. Already the best of my youth is past, and the signs of age will soon make their mark."
"Then I must bear that sorrow when I come to it," a delicate hand stroked her cheek, and his smile flashed, "for even a mighty Elf-Lord does not choose where his heart goes." The fingertips trailed down over her jaw to the soft skin of her neck, stealing her breath as they passed.
She lifted her hands to him. Tracing the curve of his brows, brushing back the long, dark hair, touching the delicate ears. Drawing her fingers along his jawline, and ever so gently past the beautiful mouth, down the slender neck to feel the pulse of life. A tightness in her chest told her she had forgotten her breath, and she released it with a gasp.
He took her face gently between his two hands, his eyes filled with love and his lips softened with desire. "Let me see if I can do better a second time," he whispered, tilting her head back slightly, and touching his mouth to hers.
Her pulse sounded loud as a drumbeat, her lips ached, and at the soft pressure of his, parted with a sigh.
His strong arms were welcoming, and his long hands were firm against her back. She felt herself mould against him as the fire rose, and yielding, she let him lower her back onto the couch. "And now," he whispered, running a fingertip along her collarbone, and bringing his mouth to hers again, "that's enough talk."
[If you’re over 18 and want to lift the curtain for a peek, I have published the love-scene (rated NC-17) separately under ‘The Standard Bearer – extra scenes, Scene 1: A Surprise Catch.]
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.