2. Chapter 2
- Chapter 2 -
Wyn hoisted the heavy bucket of water onto the stone edge of the well, praying that it would not fall down like the previous one. Of all her chores, she abhorred most getting water. The well was in the centre of the village, in full view of all the people, and as she dragged the full bucket across the green, her already disgraceful walk worsened to the point of ridicule by the weight in her arms, and the sniggers and stares followed her.
She ignored them, struggling to get the bucket home without losing too much water: otherwise she'd just have to do it again. She pushed the door open with her shoulder, and set the pail on the table.
Wyn fumbled through the shelves, searching for something that could be prepared as a midday meal. She wrinkled her nose in disappointment as she laid out the results of her quest: three potatoes sadly stared back at her. She sighed. Their food supplies were gone, and who knew when they'd get an income again? Their land had been at peace ever since the War of the Ring, protected and prosperous under the King's reign. People only rarely bought weapons, now, and with only a few horses in the village, the forge usually stood empty.
She shrugged. Best was not to think about it too much, and enjoy what they had. Three potatoes was better than nothing; she should be able to make something out of them.
Her father, the blacksmith of the village, entered the small cottage just when she had finished preparing the meal. Wyn noticed the haunted, tired look in his eyes that he had been wearing for a few years, now ; the despair, only slightly hidden from his daughter, when he returned with empty hands once again.
Wyn felt her heart ache for him; if only she wasn't crippled, she might've been married already, and not be such a burden. She had seen on many occasions her friends flirting with the young men; some of them were actively courted, with a marriage expected soon. Wyn knew that it would never be like that, for her. No sane man would ever want a wife with a deformed body; and even without that, no man would ever marry a girl deemed simple-minded.
Wyn had earned that reputation years ago, when she still was a little girl who liked to listen to the stories her grandmother told her. Her father's mother was of old blood, it was said, and knew of legends and tales that had long been forgotten. In the evenings, when little Wyn was to go to sleep, her grandmother would sit on the edge of her bed and tell her of dragons and wolves, of dwarves and elves.
Elves. The little girl had been fascinated by them ever since the old lady had first uttered their name. So much, in fact, that she had believed the prophecy that her grandmother had made up for her: 'One day, little one,' had the woman said, cradling Wyn in her arms, 'a tall and beautiful elf will come for you. He'll ride a white horse, the most magnificent beast ever, with flowers in its mane.' The little girl had gaped at her, eyes shining at the perspective. 'My Lady, he will say, long have I travelled to find you. Will you come with me and be my bride?'
The next day, Wyn had told everyone she would marry an elf, even getting into a fight with a boy who had declared they didn't exist. She had cried, as her father had tended gently to her split lip. 'He will come, Da, I know it!' The smith hadn't had the heart to crush her dreams. She'll grow out of it, he had thought, and Wyn did.
But the villagers remembered. They spoke good-naturedly of the simple, kind Wyn: She's a good girl, that one – a bit dim in the head, but she's got a good heart…
That was what she was: a good girl.
Wyn had ceasd to envy her friends when they flirted with boys. Boys didn't flirt with Wyn. She had come to understand her position in the small society that was their village: she was the one who helped, who comforted and complimented. The peace-keeper.
Wyn and her father devoured their meager meal, and the blacksmith kissed his daughter's forehead before walking out the door. 'Pa!' she called after him, and he turned around. 'It will be alright, Pa!' she smiled reassuringly. 'We will make it.' He smiled sadly in return, and walked away.
The river flowed lazily under the summer sky, winding through the green plain. Its waters carried the traditional gift at this time of the year: crowns of flowers, wound by the girls of the settlement. The weather itself seemed to celebrate with the villagers: warm and fragrant, it invited for a walk barefoot in the fields, for a swim under the setting sun.
Elrohir sat on his small hill overlooking the village. He stretched out his long legs, considering for a second the idea of removing his leather boots to feel the grass tickle his feet; but the tempting perspective was rejected. He sighed softly and looked down towards the small settlement again.
The day seemed alike in each aspect to the dozens of others spent here, under the oak tree, watching the girl. The way the rays of the sun reflected on the waters of the Hoarwell, the smell of the grass and its soft rustle in the wind... It felt as though Elrohir had been sitting there for decades. Nothing changed, and nothing would for a long time; only men would age, die and be born, in accordance with their short lifetimes.
She would age.
Elrohir discarded the thought. He had come to his vantage point almost every day since it had happened, watching the girl from afar, seeing her grow up and blossom into a pretty young woman… Again, the stab of guilt in his chest. The humans she lived with did not see her the way he did, her mangled leg blocking everything else from their narrow minds. To them, she was ugly and funny to watch, as she waddled from her house to wherever it was she was headed. He had helped, sometimes, the best he could: putting some food into the larder when the family was sleeping, throwing some coins into dusty corners where he knew they would be found, and accepted as having rolled away from the table. Always little things, that made him feel like a monster of selfishness and greed. He could have done so much more, if he had dared to...
It could have been different, he mused. He could have provided for all her needs, seen her happy and well-fed… Imladris could have been filled with a child's laughter again.
Then his view of her had changed abruptly. It had been after a particularly uneventful scouting patrol, which Glorfindel insisted on perpetuating despite the peaceful times. Elrohir had run all the way back, trying to wear himself out, to get rid of the pent-up energy accumulated through weeks of peace and idleness. He had stopped to drink from the ice cold waters of the Hoarwell before crossing, thinking of checking on his protégée at the same time. After quenching his thirst he had looked up, and seen her. And realized that she wasn't a child anymore. He had watched, entranced by the graceful movements of her small, thin hands as she did her washing, the swaying of her hips only slightly lopsided – he had grown accustomed to her step - the fullness of her lips… Instantly, his heart had felt warm in his chest, his blood ran like molten metal in his veins, scorching, demanding. It was not fondness, not guilt. It was desire.
After that day, he had come to watch her with different purposes, feeling utterly miserable when he couldn't make it to the oak tree. She didn't even know of his existence, and there he was, hoping that something would ever come out of it. He needed to see her.
Now, after a year, his decision was mostly made, only a small part of him still afraid of losing the safety of his immortal heritage. It was as if seeing her reminded him of why he had questioned his immortality in the first place...
The feast was now in full swing. Huge pieces of meat were roasting above the bonfires; the flames hissed when the dripping grease touched them, sending sparks at the merry passers-by. In the only tavern of the village, ale flowed, and ancient songs were sung, to thank the Valar and celebrate the return of spring.
Elrohir leaned forward when a group of maidens walked out onto the village green, laughing and casting flirty glances at the young men. Most of them were pretty, in a simple and healthy way: pink-cheeked and fair-haired, their hips swinging suggestively under their dresses, even though some of them hadn't realised yet the effect it had on the opposite sex. The watcher watched them go with mild curiosity; they were not what he was waiting for.
As the group moved away from the settlement, and to the river, a small form emerged from one of the shabbier houses, and hurried awkwardly to join them. Elrohir froze, watching raptly as the girl limped to the river bank, where she was greeted by her friends. She seemed well, he decided, and reasonably happy. As always, he felt a pang of guilt about measuring her happiness by his own standards; after all, what did he know about being crippled? But his keen eyes saw her smile, his ears heard her laughter when she plucked the tiny flowers from the ground and wove their stems into a green tress.
A small frown darkened her pretty face when she cast the crown into the water; unlike her healthy friends, she knew that it wouldn't float to a betrothed. But happiness is contagious, and soon she was smiling again. Behind his curtain of tall grass, the elf relaxed.
Suddenly, he wished he could have her crown, catch it in the current and keep it with him. Something made by her, wearing the imprint of her small fingers and maybe, if he held it to his chest, he could feel a ghost of that touch against his skin? The very idea was silly, but the desire was too powerful to be easily forgotten, and he decided to indulge it. After all, what harm could it bring?
Elladan's warning flashed through his mind, his brother's pained eyes a reminder of the consequences of his choice. But it was not Elladan's life. And his decision was made; it had been for a long time, his fear that of admitting it.
He thought quickly. Given the flow, and the many turns the river took, he could still catch up with his little treasure. Pushing himself off the ground, Elrohir glanced one last time towards the settlement: the maidens were returning to the feast, the limping girl on their heels.
Elrohir took off towards the South at a leisurely pace, towards the lower reaches, while the setting sun slowly painted the waters red.
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.