2. Chapter One
Caras Galadhon - Quellë 3013, The Third Age
Faelwen stared at her bag, hands on her hips, right foot tapping in thought. Water would be at the campsite. She had fresh bandages, needles, thread (in assorted colors), a book, parchment, ointments, oils, salves, clips, and herbs. If there was ever a shortage of the last she could always restock, the forest of Lorien was bountiful. She gnawed on her bottom lip, aggravated by the feeling that she was missing something vital, but unsure of what.
"Faelwen," Orophin said, deciding to resume their discussion, "I really think you should rethink this. Why not let some one else try and if all goes well, then you may ride with a patrol."
"Not now, Orophin," she murmured, her eyes scanning the room, "I just know it'll hit me when we're five miles from the city and with no hope of turning around."
The elleth let out a sigh, and rubbed the furrow that seemed to have become permanently engraved between her eyebrows in the last few days.
"This is not a discussion I want to put off!" Orophin exclaimed. The irritation in his voice forced her to turn away from her bag and focus on him, her furrow to deepen, and her mouth to open so that she could let loose a tongue lashing. He cut in before she could. "Please, Faelwen. As your friend, hear me out."
She closed her mouth and crossed her arms across her chest.
"Oh, alri - That's it!" Her eyes had alighted on her quill and ink set, which she had started packing the previous night, but, for one reason or another, had never finished. Orophin's pleas all but forgotten, she rushed over to her desk, finished wrapping up her quills and stoppering her inkwells, before settling them in a side pocket of her bag, which was getting increasingly heavier.
"There." She said, with a satisfied smile. "That should be everything."
"Faelwen! For the Valar's sake, can I have a moment of your time?" Orophin looked nothing like his elder or younger brothers. According to the three, he had inherited most of his looks from his mother. The willowy build, lean muscles and delicate, nearly feminine lines of his face all came from his mother's line. His hair was a blond so fair it bordered on white and his eyes a dark blue. He was also taller, though not by much, as Rumil felt he needed to point out. Repeatedly.
"Would you like some tea, Orophin?" He threw his hands into the air with a frustrated growl.
"'Tis impossible to talk reason with you. We should send you to parley with the Shadow - you would force their surrender only by your obstinacy!"
"What obstinacy? I have not resisted anything that you have had to say. Which, might I add, is not much." He sighed, the breath coming out through his nose in a fashion that spoke of how much difficulty he was having controlling his words.
"I," he started, enunciating the one word as much as he could, "believe that this idea is a bad one. No," he continued, raising a hand when she opened her mouth to protest, "I will have my say in this. Faelwen, you are like a younger sister to me. And like younger sisters, you are too often misguided. You never fully recovered from your ordeal. The idea of riding out, with a patrol, however helpful it maybe, is not something you should be doing."
"But we can offer immediate treatment this way. The time between injury and treatment could mean life or death for some wardens." She objected. Over the past few weeks, this was a discussion she had had at least once with three people: Orophin, Rumil, and Cilmion, a fellow healer. The Warden of the Healing Talans had decided to implement a practice not seen since the Second Age; to allow healers to ride with patrolling wardens. There had been much protest, but in the end, his wish had prevailed. Like Faelwen, he believed time was crucial, and though Elves were faster runners than most creatures, and hardier too, being burdened by an injured comrade often boded ill. If, he reasoned, healers were on site, lives could be saved; long term injuries prevented, and good would be done for all. Orophin had thought it a splendid idea. Until Faelwen had volunteered to go out with the next patrol.
"Yes, and that's all well and good," he responded, "But I would rather you not exposed to that."
"I am not a stranger to war."
"I'm not saying you are. But I would like you kept safe."
"I will be safe."
"Orophin." She smiled and tugged on his hand, "Rumil will be with me. And I will not go amidst the fighting. I will watch from afar, and when it is done I will go in and do my duty. I promise."
He sighed - the second time in all of five minutes - and leaned his forehead against hers. Faelwen was always ready to make way for others, to concede, follow orders, and be obedient. She followed directions accordingly and when he, Rumil or Cilmion reasoned with her, she was always more than willing to listen. He could not understand why she had all of a sudden taken it into her head to ignore all their objections. None of them could talk her out of this. And they had tried; pleaded with her, bargained with her. Rumil had even challenged her to a game of Tolothanna, stating that the winner would have their way. And she had beaten him. No one could get through to her.
"Why are you so adamant about going to the fences?"
"Why are you so adamant for me not to go?" Orophin groaned.
"Faelwen." It was her turn to sigh.
"Orophin, I have always been a healer. When we first come over from Valinor that is all I did. I went out to the battlefields. I separated those who were living from those already dead. It was everything to me. I have a chance to regain that now. 'Tis important to me, gwador." He kissed the side of her head, as he had on that dawn many mornings ago, then reached around her to take her bag.
"Aglor will not be happy to carry this load," he commented, then sighed, for the third time, "Well, come on then. Before I change my mind. But, let it be noted that I fully object to this and will never forgive you if something happens to you."
"Noted." She promised with a grin, and followed him as he led the way out of her talan.
The immediate area surrounding the city gates of Caras Galadhon was a sight to behold. Horses, ellyn and ellyth all swarmed about the area, shouting, laughing, and calling out to one another. Snatches of song could be heard filtering in through the overall ruckus. Several wardens called out to Orophin, who responded jovially in return. He kept Faelwen close to him, a hand resting lightly on her elbow, and guided her through the crowd easily. As was her way, she didn't complain and allowed herself to be guided until a voice called out her name.
"Faelwen!" She smiled when she recognized the voice and turned to greet Cilmion as he jogged towards them, a hand raised in greeting.
"So," he started, throwing an arm over her shoulders with a grin, "I see none were able to dissuade you from your scheme."
"She refuses to hear the voice of reason," Orophin put in, dryly. Cilmion shrugged with a good natured smile, before turning her to guide her toward the packing area.
"Now, you must convince that wonderful steed of yours, Aglor, that he is not so noble that he can not be a pack horse." She laughed and once more allowed herself to be guided. Orophin followed after them, listening to their jests with a quiet smile. They were both younger than him, Cilmion in fact and Faelwen because she had spent more than half of her life asleep in a glass coffin. In one way or other both had become younger additions to his family and fast friends for one another. Both quiet, hard working, healers; both mischievous when one could convince the other, both loved one another as if they had shared a womb. They were almost inseparable.
"Why does Aglor have to act as a pack horse?" Faelwen asked, as she rubbed the horse's nose affectionately.
"He is much stronger than my poor mare, Riel. And much less well tempered. She can carry the two of us, and Aglor can carry our supplies. The wardens can't spare any more horses." Orophin smiled. It never occurred to either of them to split the supplies and ride separate horses. No, everything had to be done together. They rode together, worked together; they had even at one point shared a flet. Now they lived as neighbors and more often than not broke fast and dined together.
"Orophin!" Rumil clasped him roughly by the shoulder and gave it a squeeze, "And Faelwen!" The smile Rumil gave his brother was tight. "I thought we had an agreement, gwador."
Orophin returned his smile with a weary one of his own, "Have you tried arguing with her. It wears the life out of a person." Rumil sighed and shook his head. Truly, he had no right to argue. He had bet against her and lost, and so was out of the running for trying to convince her to stay. Which had left the duty up to Orophin. Cilmion had not been overly concerned, and after voicing his opinion to her once, had retreated. He, it seemed, seemed to know best when to let things be.
"She will not relent on this," he had warned them, "So let it be."
But they had not.
"So you ride with us, Faelwen?" She nodded with a smile.
"Do not look so troubled, Rumil. I promise to follow instructions; so long as it does not interfere with doing my duty."
"If you had not qualified it, I would have been much more at ease." He muttered, before excusing himself and his brother.
"Don't worry, Faelwen," Cilmion reassured, giving her hand a squeeze, "Once we arrive at camp he will let it lie. Now come, help me load up this bag. By the Valar, I think I packed my whole stock in there."
She grunted her agreement as she took one end of the bag and tried - unsuccessfully - to lift it. What had he possibly packed to make the bag so heavy? She asked, but he only grinned, replying, "Oh, this and that," before giving a heave and in one rough movement, managed to land it heavily on Aglor's back. The horse did not respond well to the load, and pranced, annoyed at being degraded from battle steed, to pleasure horse and now, pack horse. He turned his head to eye his mistress, who smiled apologetically and patted his neck.
"'Tis only for a short while," she assured. He snorted disdainfully, clearly not believing her. She continued to aid Cilmion, collecting the small things that fell out of the assortment of bags, and calming Aglor when he would not remain still. Through all this, she continued to peek looks at the two brothers who stood with one another, heads bowed to each other, speaking quietly. They were absorbed in their discussion, hands moving to illustrate a point, whether in agreement or disagreement. When they settled, Orophin handed what looked like a letter over to his brother. Despite the commotion around them, she thought she caught the name of their eldest brother, Haldir.
Instantly, her heart clenched in her chest. The pressure that mounted there seemed to do so instantaneously. Her breath hitched and a cold swept over her, chilling everything.
'Tis only his name! But still the reaction came; she could not stop her fingers from tightening their grip in Aglor's mane. Cilmion put his arms around his friend, having seen the pained expression on her face many times before. She turned her face into his shoulder, her fingers digging tightly into the front of his robes.
"'Tis time for us to depart," he said, and she nodded silently, pulling herself away reluctantly. Riel was a sweet tempered mare, with a shining brown coat and neighed when Cilmion stroked her mane, murmuring to her soothingly.
Rumil and Orophin finished their discussion just as Cilmion was helping her mount.
"Be safe," he told her as he came forward, and then looked at his brother and friend, "all of you." He clasped forearms with the two ellyn, and reached up to kiss Faelwen's cheek. "I'll be on the fences in two days time."
Moments later, with Cilmion sitting behind Faelwen, they disembarked, joining the quickly organizing group of wardens leaving the city.
It took nearly four hours after leaving the city to reach the borders of their wood on the Celebrant. The journey was easy, and more than once Faelwen caught herself dozing off; the warmth that Cilmion provided against the chill air and Riel's smooth gait assured it. With in the woods of Lorien, the leaves had yet to fall, and though the air was chill, its inhabitants did not suffer the bitter cold of mid-winter. So when she did not dose, she relaxed against her friend and examined the passing scenery. She had heard once that even living in these woods the whole of your life, you could never tire of their beauty. She had lived here nearing fifty years and still she marveled at it.
When they finally did reach the campsite, it took her several minutes before she realized it. Deserted, it looked like any other part of the forest. But when she looked closer she could see logs surrounding an old fire, knobs on the trees that acted as ladders to flets above, all small things that were easily disguised and dismissed. She dismounted, took a deep breath and began unloading bags.
It had been a fight to convince the wardens that the tents were imperative. Large and bulky, they were difficult to transport from one place to another. But the healers had been adamant about them, citing them as necessary protection against infection and disease. That aside, they were not the decorous, colorful affairs some of the wardens expected them to be. They were large and made of the same material from which they fashioned Lorien cloaks so that they would remain unnoticed in the woods and its patients hidden from prying eyes.
Once their tent's erection was complete, she set about organizing its inside. A small, collapsible table, cots, a basin of water, and the various supplies that she and Cilmion had brought were set inside the tent and put to order. It took longer than she had anticipated, and by the time she finished and lifted up the flap of the tent, the sun was already setting. She stepped out of the tent, allowing the flap to drop behind her, and stretched, taking a deep breath.
The scent of water, of the river, pervaded the air. She could hear it, lapping up against the banks not so faraway. It drew her gaze, that sound, and after a moment she smiled. There was light enough left for a quick walk by the river. And she would be back before she was ever missed. She found Aglor among the horses and then rode to the shore.
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.