27. The Letter
Lothíriel dismounted from her horse to take one of the last respites they would have before the group from Lothlórien rode into Minas Tirith. Elladan came up behind her and gently placed his hand on her shoulder and turned her around so that she was looking up into his face. They stood between their horses, which Lothíriel noted gave them a small measure of privacy at least.
"I do not know if I can bear this," she said forlornly. "What a fool I have been. If I hurt so bitterly, what must I have done to you?"
"My love, you could not be more wrong. I cannot deny the pain I feel at letting you go, but I knew the limits before I began. I would not trade my anguish for Ages of peace in which I would never have known you," Elladan said softly.
"What can I do to make it better?" Lothíriel asked.
"Give me one last kiss. Please go on being fond of me in whatever way you can manage, but know that I will not interfere with your life. I also want you to know that I will always love you, as much as I wish, and in my own way. No one can take that from me."
"But you must not torture yourself that you have hurt me, Lothíriel. You have healed me of a tenacious despair that I have harbored for over 200 of your years. For that I will ever be grateful, " Elladan said. His face appeared placid, but his eyes filled with ardor.
She threw her arms and around his neck and clung to him with a vice-like grip. Elladan pried her loose with some difficulty and laughed tenderly. He took her chin between his thumb and forefinger and lifted her face. His audacious grey eyes met hers with a flash of one of his ever-alluring smiles.
"I only asked for a kiss, not to be strangled," he said indulgently, softly stroking her cheek. She thought her heart might break. He bent his handsome head a little and touched his lips to hers, at first tenderly, somewhat tentatively, and then in an impassioned kiss.
When he pulled away from her, she moaned imploringly, "Elladan, I need you now."
"I am sorry, my sweet, sweet girl. It is too late to make any more memories. Last night will have to do," Elladan whispered.
"What of our memories of Lothlórien?" she asked.
"Those are unalterably exquisite, but I prefer last night to the almost too perfect dream that we dwelt in there," he answered.
This time, she laughed and teased him, "I am not sure that I prefer the cold, damp ground with rocks and sticks poking in my back."
"I wanted to know I had you at least once in a real world as well. Anyway, it is not what was poking in your back, but what was between your legs, that I want you to remember of last night," he said with mock gravity.
"You are very wicked, Elladan. What will I do without you?" Lothíriel said, trying to maintain the lightness of his tone, but choking a little on the words before beginning to sob in earnest.
"Shhh. You must do all the things that you have dreamed of doing, my love. You will be a worthy queen, a wife, and, in not so many years, a mother. Quiet now. I will come to see your children, to teach them to question authority, and how to torture you and Éomer, as all parents should be tortured. Do not cry. I promise that you will be happy," he said. "If you ever need us, Elrohir and I will come to you immediately. Please do not cry." He held her close against his chest, his arms wrapped about her.
"Lothíriel, please, you are killing me," he beseeched. "Help me with this."
"I cannot," she sobbed.
"You can," he answered, "and you must, for me. For I cannot do this alone."
"Then for you I will try, Elladan," she said, trying to control her voice and ragged breathing. "Yet I cannot, will not, be sorry we were together."
"I am not and I do not want you to be. Now, I must leave you here. Elrohir and I will ride ahead and scout. We will then circle back to meet you," Elladan said.
"So we will meet again in a day or two. But all will be different then," she whispered.
"Yes, dear one, all will be different. Yet, you will still be you. I will be me and we will always know what we have shared," Elladan said. Lothíriel looked up to see that Arwen had approached them and stood waiting, while patting Elladan's Elven steed.
"Arwen," he said. "Elrohir and I will leave now. Will you stay with Lothíriel for a while?"
"Of course I will, brother. We have decided that we will rest here tonight and follow you in the morning," Arwen said, kissing Elladan and slipping her arm around Lothíriel's waist. "Come with me, we will sit and talk. I've asked someone to look after your horse."
"Elladan!" Lothíriel cried out, suddenly frantic, as he walked away from them. He came back, gave her kiss. He hesitated for a second, then reached inside his jacket, pulled out a folded piece of parchment and put it in her hand.
"Namárië, my love," he said, turned, and was gone.
Lothíriel sagged against Arwen, feeling terribly nauseous for a moment and as though she might faint, when Arwen's kind voice brought her immediately to her senses.
"Lothíriel, are you going to be sick?" Arwen asked, yanking Lothíriel's skirts back against her legs, as though to prevent them from being soiled.
"Oh, no," Lothíriel answered, horrified. "I am fine."
"Then let us go sit for awhile," Arwen said. "Is this your bag?" she asked, picking up a large leather satchel that the Elf who had taken Lothíriel's horse had removed and placed on the ground near them. Lothíriel nodded. The two women walked to a nearby fallen tree and sat. Arwen took the parchment from Lothíriel's hand and started to place it inside of the bag, after catching the younger woman's attention.
"Shall I put this here. It looks as though Elladan has written you a poem or a love letter. You should guard it well. I have never heard of him favoring a lover with such a romantic gesture," Arwen said.
"Thank you, Arwen," Lothíriel said, "I feel like such a fool."
"Do not be silly. You have just done something exceedingly difficult for one so young. And done it gracefully as well," Arwen said, with a gentle laugh.
"Gracefully? Hardly. Look at my face," Lothíriel said sniffing. Arwen reached into a pocket and produced a large, but delicate handkerchief, which Lothíriel gratefully accepted.
"You turned away from him for another man and yet left him with his pride intact. You gave him cause to comfort you. He departed feeling the brave, strong one. If I did not know you did so completely without calculation, I might have thought you were a very clever girl," Arwen said smiling sadly.
"You and your family are not angry with me for all of this?" Lothíriel asked.
"We are not, my dear. You have been good for him. Elladan's heart seemed to have turned to stone after the loss of our mother. We all feared we had nearly lost him to his dark obsession with revenge. You opened up his heart and in doing so freed Elrohir as well. Everyone who loves him sees the change. We are grateful," Arwen explained.
"Oh, Arwen. It was so hard for me to let him go. You cannot imagine what it is to turn away one such as your brother. He is so . . . He is so . . ." Lothíriel could not finish.
Arwen was afraid that she was going to break into tears again. She moved closer to the Lothíriel and put her arm around her waist.
"I do know what that is like. I once rejected an Elf I idolized, who was much older and wiser, and glowed with the light of Aman. Unfortunately, at that time, I had not a young lover to take his place. But that is a story for another time. Today I want you to tell me about your King of Rohan," Arwen said, hoping to keep her occupied until she calmed down.
"I will. Like Elladan, Éomer is impossible not to love. He is beautiful, tall and strong like Elladan, perhaps a bit heavier, but with glorious golden hair and blue eyes. His life has been hard. He has been a warrior since he was little more than a boy. Despite all that, he is a happy person at heart and always filled with hope. I am no artist, but I have some sketches that will give you an idea."
Arwen watched as Lothíriel reached for her satchel and brought out a leather portfolio, relieved to see that princess's tears had dried and her face had brightened. Lothíriel withdrew several pages of pencil sketches. She handed the one on top to Arwen.
"This is one of his face," she said proudly. "And here is another in armor. The Rohirrim are splendid in full armor. See the tuft on the helmet made to resemble a horses' tail. Here he is in courtly garb. Oh, this one is somewhat immodest, but you are an Elf. It should not bother you." She showed one with Éomer clad only in his trousers. His muscled chest and heavy mane of light-colored hair was drawn in careful detail. Arwen could see how the attractive young king, with his aura of heroism, must be irresistible to a young woman with Lothíriel's imagination and resolve.
"He is truly as handsome as I have been told, unless your love for him has made the pictures too flattering," Arwen said.
"You can judge from this one if I am able to capture a fair likeness. It is of your brothers, as they were when I first saw them," Lothíriel said, handing her another sketch.
Arwen took the picture in her hand and studied it. It was Elladan and Elrohir: dark-haired, light-eyed, and their faces Elven-fair, clad alike in mail. They look tired and grim, proud yet harried; their faces were smudged with the dirt and grim of battle.
"It is remarkable how you have distinguished Elladan from Elrohir. You have talent. This was how they looked after the Siege of Minas Tirith?" Arwen asked.
"Yes. Thank you. My tutor told me that I have a good eye, but no refinement, because I do not practice enough. I drew it from memory. They came straight from the field of battle and into the Houses of Healing. That is how they looked when I first saw them-so beautiful and stern. They shed their armour, washed up, and, together with Aragorn, laboured with the wounded far into the night. I did not see them again until the celebrations at Cormallen in South Ithilien. That was where I first learned that Elladan . . . oh, never mind, that is another story. And one I should not think of now," Lothíriel said. She sighed deeply. An expression of pain and longing flickered across her face. She quickly regained control, although not without effort, and handed another sketch to Arwen.
"Here is one of Éomer's sister. She is much lovelier than that now," Lothíriel explained.
"She is very beautiful," Arwen said. "Though fragile-looking for a warrior maid."
"Yes. She is fine-boned, tall, just a bit shorter than I am, and as slim. But not fragile at all. She was still unwell in that picture. She is like a sister to me already, although a bit opinionated at times. She does not have her brother's easy temperament, but she has a warm heart. I want to find one of my father and brothers and I have some of Aragorn as well," Lothíriel said, hastily shuffling through the sketches.
Arwen reached out and took a sketch, "Elladan," Arwen said. "Forgive me, Lothíriel. I did not mean to pry. If you do not want to me to see this one . . ."
"You may look at it. Perhaps it is my best. Do not tell him you saw it. It might embarrass him. Though he has never seen it," Lothíriel said, blushing.
"It is magnificent. Truly astonishing," Arwen said. In fact, Arwen found herself to be slightly embarrassed, but unable to put it down, mesmerized by its authenticity. It was Elladan's face, framed by a pillow, softened and relaxed, unmistakably caught in the aftermath of lovemaking, youthful, blissful, his hair tousled, his cheeks flushed, with the slightest smile curving his lips.
"I was pleased with it," Lothíriel said, close to tears again.
"I should think you would be. To make someone feel like that and then to capture it forever as you have . . ." Arwen said gently, taking her hand and squeezing it.
"Well, there is always what Elladan likes to call imprinting a memory with indelible Elven clarity. But I was afraid to trust my much diluted Elven blood, so I drew the picture," Lothíriel said.
"I do not think anyone would ever forget such a moment," Arwen said handing it back to Lothíriel. "Now, find me the one of Estel and the ones of your father and brothers."
"Here. I found the one I like best of Aragorn. This is how he looks at me," Lothíriel said.
The sketch showed Aragorn with a mirthful, quizzical expression, handsome and at ease. "I think he must be quite fond of you," Arwen laughed.
Lothíriel laughed also, responding, "Your Estel is a generous man. He tolerates me well beyond what I deserve, but I adore him. I have another you may like better. He is looking very kingly in this one. You may keep it if you like."
"Thank you. It is beautiful. Yes, I would like very much to keep it. I have seen him look like that." Arwen said. He does look kingly, my Dúnadan-but a king of men, the star of Elendil on his brow, and, with some worry lines softened, his beauty shining through-though not at all the handsome Elf-lord my grandmother still persists in seeing, she thought.
"Does he truly look so young and well these days?" Arwen asked wistfully.
"It is a good likeness I think. Oh, here are a several of Legolas Thranduilion. You surely must know him. I have done many of him, because he is so hard to capture. He is so perfect that I fear they always come out looking stylized. This is one more natural, but sad . . . the sea longing troubles him. But he is brave and uncomplaining," Lothíriel said gravely. "I am so fond of him. He is kind to me, although he does like to tease."
"You are wrong. The other sketches are like him as well. Even among Elves, he truly appears that flawless," Arwen answered. Lothíriel ignored her with a shrug, to Arwen's amusement, her manner demonstrated that she was clearly certain she could do better.
"I knew I had at least one good one. Here he is with Gimli the Dwarf," Lothíriel said, triumphantly pushing the sketch at Arwen, who laughed as she took it.
"I concede. You are right. This one does have more life about it," Arwen said, smiling. Legolas was opening his mouth to speak, a hint of mischief playing about his eyes, while Gimli looked decidedly put out. Nonetheless, their affection for one another was evident.
"And one of my father, with all of my brothers." Arwen considered the noble, nearly ageless, wise face of Imrahil, looking more a lordly Elf than a Prince of Men, surrounded by three cheerful, astoundingly comely young men, who resembled their father and one another strongly.
"Well, it is clear to see why your father is called Imrahil the Fair," Arwen laughed. "He is indeed a most attractive man. That is not to say your brothers are not handsome, but they look so very young. Except this one," she said pointing to Elphir. "You have drawn him as the responsible one."
"That is my brother Elphir--the heir. He has endured the weight of expectations beyond those of the rest of us. I often wonder if my father was fortunate in the character of his firstborn, or if it is Elphir's position that has made him more serious," Lothíriel said.
"Now, tell me the names of the others, the striking one, who looks most like you, and the impudent one," Arwen demanded gaily.
"The striking one, as you call him, is Amrothos, the youngest. Growing up he was my greatest trial and dearest friend. He is not at all less impudent than Erchirion, but more so. He knows how to hide it-the better to disarm people. Erchirion is the truly intelligent one among us, but perhaps with the most still to learn about life," Lothíriel said affectionately.
Arwen's eye fell upon the next sketch. The face affected her greatly. He had the classic nose and jaw line, black hair and light eyes, of the type of Númenórean blood run true. She picked up the picture and studied it carefully. Far more than his singular attractiveness drew Arwen to the picture. She thought that Lothíriel had imparted to him a depth of character beyond that of the other portraits, except perhaps the one of Elladan. She sketched him with a mixture of vulnerability and strength, perhaps nearly shading into stubbornness, a subtle but undeniable sensuality, and a capacity for warmth and happiness that did not completely overshadow an underlying sadness reflected in his grave expression.
"Oh my," Arwen said in a surprised voice. "You saved a most interesting sketch for last. Who is this man? Can it be Faramir, Steward of Gondor? He resembles you too much not to be your kin and there is a definite touch of Lord Boromir about him."
"It is Faramir. You will grow to care for him, for you will work closely together, since it will be the two of you who will advise Aragorn on a daily basis," Lothíriel said with complete conviction.
"Faramir is like Éomer in that everyone loves him. He is one of the gentlest and wisest of men. Aragorn respects him greatly already. Mithrandir too. I cannot begin to tell you how kind he is to me. Now we will be doubly joined, since he is to wed Éomer's sister Éowyn. She will be the most fortunate woman in Gondor, except for you, of course. I think Faramir knows me better than anyone, even better than Éomer or my brothers."
Arwen could not hold back a hearty laugh, "Lothíriel, you are gifted."
Lothíriel answered earnestly, "Thank you, Arwen. Do you think I should take lessons again?"
Arwen laughed again and hugged the young woman, "It is not the sketches I refer to, although they are marvelous indeed, but that you have an impressive capacity to love so many people so unconditionally and to be loved by them in return."
"Arwen, that is so kind of you," Lothíriel gushed. Arwen was tempted for a moment to object that kindness did not motivate her observation, but feared she would be misunderstood and remembered that she had all but explicitly promised both Elladan and Estel to be kind to this young woman. She held her peace and tried to remember if she herself had ever truly been so young.
Lothíriel gathered all the pictures into the portfolio. "There are more, but I will bore you into a stupor if I show all of them to you at one time. Would you like me to keep the one of Aragorn with the others until we get to Minas Tirith so that it will not get wrinkled?" she asked.
Arwen held the parchment against her chest. "Thank you, but I would like to keep it. I would like to look at it again later. I will handle it with care. Truly, you have not bored me at all. I feel as though you have introduced me to a whole world that I must learn to know when I arrive in Minas Tirith. It already seems less strange to me."
"Oh, I am glad. Maybe tomorrow during one of our rests, I should show you more of those people." Lothíriel said, placing the portfolio in the bag. She then took up the parchment that Elladan had given her and unfolded it.
"It is a poem," she said. A single large tear fell onto the parchment and threatened to wash away the initial tengwa of the first word."
"Oh," she said in a tiny voice and shoved the parchment at Arwen. "Will you read it to me, please? I cannot." Arwen reluctantly took it and began in a soft voice,
"He begins with the word, 'Unfinished.'"
Was it the double of my dream
The woman that by me lay
Dreamed, or did we halve a dream
Under the first cold gleam of day?
I thought: "There is a waterfall
Upon fair mountainside
That all my childhood counted dear;
Were I to travel far and wide
I could not find a thing so dear."
My memories had magnified
So many times childish delight.
I would have touched it like a child
But knew my finger could but have touched
Cold stone and water. I grew wild.
Accusing the host of Valar because
It had set down among its laws:
Nothing that we love over-much
Is ponderable to our touch.
"Arwen, it is lovely. It is about us, but it is not. It is about his life and the condition of life. I am right to think that it is extraordinary, am I not?" she asked overcome with emotion.
"You are right. It has pain and the promise of healing in it as well. You should treasure it. Perhaps someday he will want to finish it," Arwen said.
"Arwen," Lothíriel whispered, afraid to speak it aloud. "It is not finished is it?" Arwen knew she did not refer to the poem.
She looked at the brash young princess, with a sense of annoyance and impatience that faded into reluctant compassion. Then, taking a deep breath, she answered, "Only you and my brother can answer that question."
"Come now I intend to look after you tonight. I think I smell food cooking; we should go back to the others and see. It is important that you should try to eat when you are upset. We have a long way to travel tomorrow and we have much that awaits us when we reach the City," Arwen said. "And, Lothíriel, thank you for the picture of Estel."
 Adapted from the description of Elladan and Elrohir in "The Passing of the Grey Company," Return of the King. Too close to the original not to footnote.
 Towards Break Of Day, William Butler Yeats. I have replaced two proper names with references fitting Middle Earth.
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.