5. Chapter 5
- Chapter 5 -
It was in moments like these, when he saw the confusion on his friends' faces, that Lindir despised this voice that could sow the seed of doubt into the listeners' minds and sway them to his side. There was a time when he was still a mere ministrel, innocent and eager to please his friends with a simple song. There was a time when his greatest fear was to strike a false note or to forget the words; but duty had changed it all. What once was black and white blurred to shades of grey, where once lay clear limits between good and evil stood people – human, with flaws and fears. And he had regretted the path he had chosen.
Now the future of a child, of its mother and mayhap of a land lay in the balance. And he finally understood that there truly what a sacrifice really entitled… For reason and heart were rarely friends.
"To protect the bloodline we will have to take up arms once again, and slay men in battle." Lindir looked around the room, facing each of them. "Some of us may die. And if you accept this risk, I must ask this of you now. After the sacrifice of your friends and kin, will you have the courage to undo what you have done?"
Silence descended upon the room. The hushed, indignant whispers ceased, as though every man present felt the weight of such a task on his shoulders. Lindir himself sat back, pondering the possibility that he may have to ride into battle once again – something he had not done for very long, and had never enjoyed to begin with. Would he have the strength to pick up a sword for an ancient cause, and the stubbornness to hide his fear if he fell, reassuring his friends through the pain, as he had seen many a great warrior do? Those were the men he had admired; now was his chance to become one. The fame and glory he had longed for were at hand… Would he have the courage to die for his dream?
Elrohir spoke first.
"This is my mission," he said quietly. "It is my heritage and my duty. Aragorn was my brother; I cannot fail his House."
"And neither can I." Elladan nodded at his brother; both seemed calm and determined, as though having reached some unspoken agreement. Their bond was strong, their loyalty towards each other unwavering, and Lindir knew they had both chosen their path. It lay with the heiress of Elessar, and whatever fate awaited her.
Glorfindel smiled bitterly. "I have nothing to return to anyway," he laughed.
He looked at Urúvion, who glared back defiantly.
"I will not leave you!" he hissed. "I will not run."
"This is not your responsibility." Glorfindel's voice was surprisingly gentle. "You have a family waiting for you. Go home."
"You go home!" Urúvion snapped. He looked around the room. "I have known and followed you all my life," he added more quietly. "All my life I have admired you, and wished I could be as brave and selfless." He glared back at Glorfindel, as though challenging him to laugh. "This is my chance, I will not let it pass. I trusted you this far… I am staying." And he crossed his arms to signify that the conversation was over.
Lindir felt all eyes turn to him, and let the silence linger. Sides had been chosen, fates decided, and he understood where his own path lay. This would be a last stand for the elves of Middle-earth, their very last intervention in the world of Men before their time was truly over… A last stand for everything they had once believed in.
"So be it." He smiled and his mask of indifference slipped into place once again; there was no trace of hesitation in his voice, as though he had never doubted his role in this mission. "My arm and my voice are yours until the end, whatever it may be. Let us watch and await our hour, and then… Let us change history."
From her porch, Aeve stared at the distant woods with a heart full of envy. Never had the green canopies and the twilight paths held such an attraction before, when she still thought she could walk them unthreatened. Now that the elves had unexpectedly claimed the forest as their territory, and wandered as far as its edge, she dared not come near it.
She was sitting on the bottom step, kicking up dirt with the tip of her boot and trying to come up with a suitable occupation, when a shadow came to hide her from the sunlight. Looking up, Aeve saw Sveyn looking at her with laughter in his eyes. She scowled.
"Go away," she muttered, resuming the dirt-kicking.
"Now the street is free for everyone to walk, Princess," he countered, still smirking.
Princess… Now that was new. Aeve cast a suspicious glance at the annoying boy, wondering whether he knew what had passed in her mind the previous day. If he did, surely there would be no end to the teasing– but, in truth, how could he? Slightly reassured but not trusting Sveyn in the least, Aeve huffed.
"I am not your princess."
"Duchess? Countess? Queen?" Sveyn offered, laughing. "Whichever title do you prefer, little one, to reign over these lands?" He opened his arm in a sweeping gesture, bowing dramatically.
"Go away," Aeve repeated, blushing crimson and cursing inwardly with all the words she knew. "Go bother Ida, for a change."
Her mouth filled with an acid taste at those last words. Of course he should prefer beautiful Ida's company to that of his best friend's sister – one he called "little one", and whom he could only see as a necessary accessory to Kilian, an extension to bear with. Ida, pretty, empty-headed Ida; Aeve's long-lasting awe was suddenly replaced by the writhing serpents of hatred.
"Ah, no," Sveyn suddenly sighed, plopping down beside her. His mouth twisted into a winsome grin when he caught her surprised stare. "Too much success is sometimes tiresome," he winked. "I need a break from the ladies' admiration."
Aeve rolled her eyes and shifted further from him. "Then leave me some rest as well." The heat emanating from his body was utterly distracting, and her voice did not have the edge she would have wanted it to. Aeve scowled at her own silliness, and hoped he would take it for himself. No such luck.
"Ah, but surely I am not bothering you, Princess," Sveyn countered.
"Yes, you are."
His grin widened. "No, I am not."
Aeve turned around to glare at him. "What is wrong with you? Go away, and stop arguing with me!"
"I am not arguing with you."
"Aaargh!" Aeve shrieked in frustration, jumping to her feet, her hands balled into fists. "I hate you!"
She could feel herself growing redder by the minute, nearing the beetroot shade her father always reached when he was mad. Not nearly as graceful as Ida's tears when she was unhappy. She willed her hands to relax; she had lost this fight. If Sveyn wanted her angry, he always reached his goal, and there was little she could do now but try to make a dignified exit.
"I am going away, now," she said, her voice trembling with the effort of keeping it low, and turned away.
Sveyn was watching her from his place on the steps; his smile had grown apologetic.
"Don't leave," he said. "I am sorry."
Aeve gaped at him. In all the years she had known him, this was a first – for Sveyn to apologize, he had to have some greater plan in mind to humiliate or annoy her. But her heart beat faster in her chest at the sight of those grey eyes pleading, her anger faded. Why was it that he possessed this power over her, to send her howling with rage one moment and soften her the next? As though of their own will, her legs carried her back to her place beside him.
"You better be," she grumbled in an attempt to render his victory less evident, pretending she only returned grudgingly.
They sat in silence for a while, both kicking the already fairly bruised ground now. Aeve pondered her new predicament. No doubt it would not take long for him to discover she… No, not liked – that was certainly an overstatement, wasn't it? …That she did not despite him quite as much as before. And then what treacherous use would he find for this new weakness? And how was she supposed to counter it?
Aeve could feel herself tensing up at the slightest movement he made, her body drinking in his presence, his warmth. She hoped they would be seen together – then everyone, Ida included, would know she was not just a little girl, anymore, and that he had chosen her company; but then again, she'd rather they weren't. A stolen glance at his face showed her that he seemed to have relaxed in her presence, his ever-smiling face relaxing into an expression of contemplation. He was looking at the line of trees delimiting the forest, his dark hair falling into his eyes; Aeve pushed down the urge to touch a lock, to feel if a boy's hair was as soft as her own. Knowing Sveyn's personality, she would not have been surprised if the looks came out deceiving, and if the apparent softness turned out to be hard and sharp.
The silence stretched on and, while Sveyn seemed to be perfectly comfortable, Aeve found herself raking her brain for something intelligent to say after her apparent victory in their verbal spar; but there seemed to be no words matching their situation. He would mock her – of that she was certain – if she asked whether he enjoyed sitting on her porch.
"Why are you not in the forest, anyway?" she said eventually, inwardly cringing at the silliness of her question.
But Sveyn only shrugged, his gaze lost in the woods. "You are not there to argue with me," he replied, smiling absently. "So I thought, if you are not there to bring our conversations to me, I had to go to you."
"How thoughtful of you," she said through her teeth; but once again, her tone contradicted her intentions.
He had thought of her! Even though it had been for such a trivial and petty reason, his mind had called up a memory of her, and he had sought her out. Another novelty – usually their disputes only happened as they stumbled upon each other, when he came to see Kilian, or when her feet led her to their clearing.
"Besides, I have found something of yours," he said and, bending to retrieve something from beside the porch, he produced her ball.
Aeve gasped, eyes darting to the dark depths of the forest lurking behind the first line of trees. The elves! They must have found it! In her infatuation with Sveyn's attention, she had completely forgotten what she had seen, and to warn the other children. Last she had seen her toy, it lay in the tall grass amongst the ancient ruins, under the watchful gaze of statues of old. And if Sveyn had wandered as far then he, too, was in danger.
"Where have you found it?" she asked, her voice tight.
Sveyn nodded towards the woods. "Just by the edge of the forest, on the path," he replied, studying her with what looked like growing alarm. "Why? Is something wrong?"
By the edge? Aeve recalled the elves she had seen prowling at the very limits of the woods. It could not be a coincidence; something – someone – had brought back her ball from where she had lost it and left it for anyone to find, far from their territory. Someone had ensured that she would not have to return for it – not that she would have dared to. Could it be, then, that the elves sought only to protect their homes, and cared little for revenge for trespassing? Could it be that, once again, Sveyn had been wrong, and his description of them grossly misled?
Aeve took the ball with shaking hands, but her eyes remained trained on the forest. She knew the truth, now. Elves were real; they still dwelt in the depths of ancient woods, shunning mortals and keeping to themselves, out of sight and memory. Elves were real, and nothing like the stories of bloodlust and cruelty she had always heard. They feared them just as much as mortals feared the elves; feared their ignorance, perhaps, spread by the likes of Sveyn. How many were left? Her heart constricted painfully at the image of centuries of loneliness and hiding.
Elves were real; but their secret was safe with her.
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.