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Chapter 4 – Elvellon
The wedding party, consisting of Dirhael’s immediate family and the entire First Watch, set out from the Lake Evendim settlement a few days later. It would take a week’s travel, as they had to trace the shore path of the lake. It was safer than going further inland where the risk of Orc attack was greater.
The end of the third day’s travel saw the party encamped on the northern bank of the Brandywine and past their ancestral lands. The landscape that they now beheld was far different from their own lands of woods and hills. The landscape was flat plains and stretched out for miles with only a few undulations and rocky outcroppings. Some of the warriors had already served as Rangers before returning to their people and were used to the change in landscape, but for those of Dirhael’s people who had never traveled beyond their own traditional borders it was unnerving being attuned only to the rhythms and protections of their own woods.
It was this and other matters of security that saw Dirhael and Erithain in conversation with others of the First Watch. Out on the open plain with only the river at their back posed problems in terms of defending a position. Granted they could see any advance but they were also completely visible to unfriendly eyes. But this among other things was something they were going to have to deal with on this journey east. It was decided to set watches at four positions even spaced surrounding the encampment to provide as much warning as possible if the worst should happen.
Erithain has chosen to take the first watch. As he idly surveyed the territory that surrounded him he thought he saw a group of riders approaching from the east. They were not Orcs, of that he was sure but any further reckoning was not possible. He called the attention of the watch and a party lead by himself would ride out and meet these visitors and ascertain their business.
As the gap closed between the two parties, it was apparent that the inbound riders were indeed riding straight for the encampment, but their speed did not suggest attack. Erithain raised his arm in a signal to those who rode with him and those that closed the line behind, to stand down but to not break formation. He thought it best not to show outward hostility, but neither would he be caught napping if they suddenly accelerated to attack speed.
As it turned out precaution was unnecessary. Erithain noted that it was a retinue of six and atop the lead horse, a white stallion that radiated unusual strength and grace, sat an Elf who also radiated an unusual strength and grace. The sun itself seemed to be refracted through this bright being. Erithain had never encountered an Elf before as they had little cause to travel through Northern Eriador in these latter days, although he, like many of his tribe, had heard stories. From what his eyes were currently telling him most of them were true. He stared into the Elf’s eyes and within them he thought he saw starlight reflected back at him, although dusk had yet to approach.
A voice stern yet musical, broke through his thoughts, “Mae Govannen! Are you Dirhael of Lake Evendim’s people?”
Erithain blinked and broke his stare. Swallowing and hoping to hide his excitement at encountering such beings he stated, “Yes,” touching his head and heart in greeting. He did not trust his voice far beyond that simple affirmation.
“I am Glorfindel,” said the Elf Lord, inclining his head, “and these are the sons of Lord Elrond of Rivendell.” He motioned to two dark-haired Elves that Erithain had only just noticed, so dazzled had he been by the golden Elf. “Elladan and Elrohir.”
Each nodded respectively and Erithain returned the greeting. He now looked closer at the two Elves who were so obviously twins. Testing his voice he ventured, “Welcome, my lords. My father bears you greetings. I am Erithain, captain of the First Watch and son to Dirhael.” A flicker of recognition registered in the dark-haired Elves’ star-like pale blue eyes, which Erithain noted with surprised interest. “What brings you to this lonely place along the river?”
The dark-haired Elf who had nodded when named Elladan replied, “Erithain, you are friend to Arathorn?”
The young captain inclined his head saying, “I have that honour, yes.”
“Arador and Arathorn bade us seek you out before approaching your father. He has sent his best warriors to serve as escort.” He motioned to the mounted warriors just behind him.
Erithain touched his head and heart as greeting in welcome to the guard captain, a man with shrewd green eyes and blond hair sitting on a bay stallion, “We are honoured, Captain.”
The captain nodded and spoke the formal wording, “Our service is yours.” Erithain noted with dry amusement that he seemed surprised that Dirhael’s watch commander was so young. The dark-haired youth had long since stopped bristling over another’s opinion of his position and lack of years. He knew that he was still learning but his father and Arathorn had both shown great faith in him and he determined to never let them down.
“If you will have us, we are to be your escorts for the rest of the journey to Fornost,” the golden-haired Elf concluded.
Flattered that Arathorn had named him friend to these bright beings, Erithain quickly replied, “We would be honoured. Come let us ride back to camp. You shall break bread with us tonight!” He motioned for the First Watch to return and wheeled his own horse level with the three Elves.
The whole camp had come to a standstill from the moment the riders had been spotted. Now that they had obviously been accepted and given safe passage by the Captain of the Watch, the curiosity only increased.
Dirhael stood ready to meet these visitors, but he was apprehensive when he saw that they were Elves. Truthfully, he had had few dealings with Elves, but having grown skeptical over the years, he initially doubted all that he did not personally know. He had not always been so cynical, but life had been a hard teacher.
Erithain leapt from his horse and knelt in front of his father. After feeling his father’s hand on his shoulder, he rose to speak. “Father, Arador has sent these Elves and warriors from his own tribe as companions and guides for remainder of the trip into Fornost.”
“Has he now? That was most thoughtful of him, but we have no need of any guidance from the Chieftain.”
Erithain looked at his father somewhat shocked by his words, “Father--.”
Dirhael held up a hand to silence his son. He spoke directly to the golden-haired Elf Lord, “I am Dirhael, Thane to my tribe. You wish to escort my people?”
Glorfindel responded impassively, “Arador has sent us, but we will accompany you only if you will allow us.” He then, bowed low to the Northern Thane, “We are at your service.”
Dirhael had half a mind to send them back where they came from, but catching the hurt look in Erithain’s eyes, he belatedly realised that his son as Captain of the Watch had already in his name accepted the Elves’ services and that to deny them was to undermine his son’s authority and suggest that he did not trust his judgment. Dirhael was loath to send any such signals. Thinking of past mistakes, the Thane refused to allow his own bitterness about life to yet again poison his son’s outlook. Erithain had made such strides over the past months and Dirhael was very proud of him. So he put aside his own feelings on the matter and responded, “Very well, your service is most gratefully accepted. Please forgive an old man his earlier churlishness.”
“There is no offence between friends and allies,” Glorfindel graciously offered and bowed again as he motioned for Elladan to see the horses of the retinue properly bedded down. Dirhael stole a look at Erithain and inwardly smiled at the relief written on his young son’s face.
Ivorwen stepped forward and Dirhael said, “Lord Glorfindel, allow me to introduce my wife, Ivorwen.”
The Elf bowed low, “I am honoured, my lady.”
Unaccustomed shyness suddenly filled Ivorwen as she looked upon this bright and beautiful Elf. There was an unmistakable aura of goodness and nobility upon his brow and within his pale blue eyes danced a pure light of ageless wisdom. “As am I, my lord Elf!” She had spoken her greeting in as clear and strong a voice as possible, given her present flustered state. He seemed not to notice and said in a lyrical voice, “We are bound to the same legacy, the Dunedain and the Elves, to fight the good fight to the end. I am honoured to share company with those of like mind.”
Ivorwen inclined her head and then turned her mind to more practical matters in an effort to push through her present bedazzled state. “Come! Sit and break bread with us. We were about to begin the evening meal. Husband, escort to Lord Glorfindel to the cooking fires and offer him some mead. Step lively!”
She turned to give Erithain an order, but in his place she found standing next to her, not her young son, but to her shock the dark-haired Elf that she had seen in her vision. She felt a little light-headed and the Elf steadied her. “My Lady! Are you well?” He guided her over to where there was a small rock outcropping and sat her down.
Ivorwen had been shocked to look up and see the same dark-haired, beautiful Elf that had appeared in her vision. At first she was embarrassed, “I am well, Master Elf, forgive me!”
“There is nothing to forgive,” insisted the Elf.
A thought struck her and it was a mother’s need that drove her to clear her mind and speak with him about a very important matter; the desire to ensure as much of her daughter’s happiness as was possible. It might be a vain hope, but she felt she had to try.
She looked the dark-haired Elf in the eye and repeated in a stronger voice, “I am well, Master Elf.” She paused and then followed with, “Pardon my boldness, but is not your name Elladan?”
The Elf looked a bit shocked and eyed her curiously and said “Nay, my lady,” he inclined his head, hand on his heart. “I am Elrohir, son to Lord Elrond of Imladris and friend to Arathorn.”
Ivorwen blinked and looked somewhat abashed and stumbled, “Y-You are not Elladan?”
Noticing the Dunedain woman’s discomfiture, Elrohir gently informed her, “He is my brother. Do you wish to speak with him?” The Elf watched the lady with curious interest as she gathered herself once again.
“Yes, Yes I would. If you would be so kind as to guide me to him.” Ivorwen had now started upon this course and meant to finish it, cost what it may to her dignity. If no hope of lasting happiness could be had, then an assurance of her daughter’s comfort might be all Ivorwen could give her child. And this far outweighed trivial considerations such as her own dignity. She straightened her shoulders and looked the Elf in the eye, “Please.”
Regarding Ivorwen in a new and admiring light, Elrohir smiled at her, “At once, my lady. Right this way” he said in a soft voice resonating musically, offering her his arm.
They walked through the camp to where the horses were being tended. Elrohir touched her hand placed on his forearm to still her motion and said, “If you will wait here for a moment I will bring my brother to you.” She nodded her assent and watched as Elrohir approached his brother and saw him motioning towards her. Elladan looked over with interest. All of a sudden, Ivorwen felt ridiculously self-conscious. Who was she to ask anything of these bright and beautiful beings? But she steeled herself with resolution. Had not Lord Glorfindel said that they shared a common purpose and if her vision was to be believed then her daughter’s life was tied to that purpose. Surely the Valar were not so unkind as to deny her this small crumb of comfort. She shook off all thought of self-consciousness as she saw the Elven twins approach her.
Holding her eye and then bowing low, with hand on heart, Elrohir’s twin said, “I am Elladan, brother to Elrohir and son to Lord Elrond. What is it you wish to say to me, dear lady.” The dark-haired Elf finished, curiosity evident on his fair face.
Ivorwen, touching head and heart, stated, “My name is Ivorwen, wife of Dirhael and mother of Gilraen. I wish to ask a boon of you.”
Elladan’s dark brows shot up, “Do you, my lady? Ask it, and if it can be done it shall be done.”
Emboldened by the Elf’s seeming willingness, “I would ask that you look over my daughter and see that she wants for nothing all the days of her life.”
Elladan looked at her, “Have you no faith that Arathorn will be able to provide for your daughter?”
Realising the implied insult too late Ivorwen stumbled over her next words, “Nay, I do not wish to impugn Lord Arathorn’s abilities and commitment. He loves my daughter and will provide for her as long as he is able…” her voice trailed off and she looked imploringly at Elladan, “Please tell me you will do this.”
Elladan stared at the Dunedain woman and was moved by the emotions he saw playing across her face as she awaited his answer. She could not realise that both he and Elrohir were self-appointed guardians to the Heir and his family and that they would always protect Arathorn and Gilraen at the cost of their own immortal lives. She was simply a very worried mother who was seeking a way to protect her daughter in any way she could. He wondered why she had specifically singled him out but that question did not need an answer. His eyes glowed with happiness and affirmation as he fairly sang out, “Yes, my lady. I can promise you that I, and my brother here, will always look to your daughter and make sure that she wants for nothing. As we will for any sons or daughters that she may have with Arathorn. Will that ease your mind, dear lady.”
Ivorwen’s hazel depths glistened with tears as she beheld the love and commitment that she saw in the Elf’s star-like blue eyes. “Thank you, Lord Elladan, Lord Elrohir. You have eased my heart with these words. I will owe you a debt that I am not sure I can ever repay.”
“Give not a thought to debts owed and owing. Among friends there is never a need.” Elladan reached out to dry the few tears that had fallen from Ivorwen’s eyes. Then in a mercurial shift of mood he sang out, “Come, we have joined together for a joyful purpose. Let us not ponder unhappiness until it becomes necessary. Until such time let us rejoice and fill the day with laughter.”
Ivorwen felt her heart lighten as she then guided the Elven twins over to the cooking fires and sat them down. She spied her daughter on the other side of the circle speaking with Nedraril and called to her.
Gilraen looked up and saw her mother speaking with the two dark-haired Elves that had arrived with the golden one named Glorfindel. She had not been able to present herself when they spoken with Dirhael upon their arrival because the cooking pot stand had chosen that moment to collapse and it had taken quick thinking and a couple of strong men from the watch to properly shore it up, otherwise dinner would have been soaking into the silt of the river bank and she would have had some explaining to do to some very hungry and angry people not least of which would have been her father.
She approached them now with a feeling akin to wonder. She, like Erithain, had never encountered an Elf before and straight out of stories by firelight sat two of the fabled Firstborn, “Yes, Mother?” she inquired.
“Daughter, These are the sons of Lord Elrond of Imladris, Lord Elladan and Lord Elrohir.” Her mother met her eyes and Gilraen had the oddest feeling that she was being introduced to two guardian angels.
She bowed her head in the northern greeting, “I am honoured to meet two of the Eldar,” Gilraen said, suddenly catching her breath as she looked into the eyes of the dark-haired Elf nearest her. Love and loyalty she saw in his star-like pale blue eyes; it left her feeling a little confused and oddly comforted at the same time.
The dark-haired Elf bowed low, hand on heart, “Simply Elladan, if you please,” his musical voice requested, “Among friends titles are too burdensome to bear for very long.”
Gilraen smiled, “Very well, L-Elladan.” The Elf smiled back enigmatically.
The other Elf bowed an even lower bow, “Elrohir, at your service, my lady Gilraen.” His eyes twinkling at her, “Arathorn described your beauty, I can now see for myself the truth in his words.”
Gilraen coloured slightly at the compliment given by such luminous beings, “I’m sure he exaggerated.”
“Nay, he did not.” Elrohir continued, “He spoke not only of your outward beauty, but of your fire and love of life. Which are evident to all who can see..”
Gilraen was now blushing furiously, and seated herself on the plaited rugs used as ground cover to mask her discomfiture. The others, her mother included, followed suit. The Thane’s daughter sat thinking that she would soon be a widow, because she was going to kill Arathorn the next time she saw him for causing her this embarrassment.
“You must forgive my brother, my lady.” Elladan stepped deftly into the conversation, “He has an annoying habit of making beautiful women blush. I cannot take him anywhere really.” He laughed mischievously as he sent his brother a mock glance of warning.
“I only speak the truth, Elladan. You would have these two beautiful ladies think I am an idle flatterer. You wound me.”
Gilraen and Ivorwen viewed these two bright beings with something between wonder and confusion. They were clearly warriors, and of proficient skill if anything could be told by the grace and confidence with which they wore their light armor and bore their knives, bow and quiver. Everything about them attested to the fact they were born warriors, yet they seemed to be as joyous as children at times, in complete contrast to the Rangers of their own people, being somber men of war and purpose.
Elladan saw both emotions flitting across the ladies’ faces. He smiled wide and said, “Forgive us, dear ladies. It just brings us great joy to finally meet the one to whom Arathorn has given his heart.”
Containing her curiosity had become instantly impossible for Gilraen, “You speak of Arathorn as if you know him well. Are you friends?”
“Yes, of many years,” Elrohir said, mercurially somber, “And we had begun to worry that Arathorn would never give his heart. His young sister to whom he was devoted died many years ago in an Orc attack. For a long while he mourned and shared his pain with no one, but slew Orc by the hundreds in a feverish vengence,” a look of pain crossed his blue eyes, a look so incongruous with this merry Elf that it struck Gilraen to the heart. “We have known such vengeance and have long accompanied him when he goes to hunt Orc.”
Elrohir fell quiet, seeming to withdraw into himself. Looking compassionately at his brother, Elladan took up the story, “After years past he seemed to deny most emotion, save that of duty. It was only after he met you that he had started to live again. He laughs now.” Elladan looked gratefully at Gilraen, “You are responsible for that.”
Humbled by the Elf’s obvious gratitude, Gilraen grew silent, embarrassed by the fervent emotion she had seen in his star-like eyes. She was not quite sure what to say. She had known of Arathorn’s sister. Gwenrith was her name and his face always lit up when speaking about her. At length she said, “Arathorn has spoken of her often. She always seemed like someone I would like to have known.”
Both Elves stared at her. Elladan then said, slightly awed, “He has never spoken of her since the day she died. He must love you even more than we suspected.” He then cast a look at Ivorwen as he brought to mind the earlier conversation they shared and the boon he had granted. Ivorwen shifted her gaze downwards as the dark-haired Elf tried to catch her eye. Elladan could sense the pain radiating from the older woman, but felt it was the wrong time to delve into that private emotion. Besides he was not even sure he wanted to know. Turning his attention back towards Gilraen he inwardly smiled at her blushes, “Arathorn also told us that you do not take compliments well and to compliment you often so you could grow accustomed.” In another mercurial shift Elladan smiled impishly.
Gilraen went from embarrassed blushes to fighting back the desire to slap the Elf upside the head. “Oh he did. Did he? Wait till I see him next. He’ll learn what he gets for goading me!” Her eyes snapped as she stood quickly, “Stay seated, my lord Elves,” when the Elven twins sought stand, “I find that we are most definitely in need of liquid refreshment. I shall retrieve of a cask of mead.”
The rest of the journey passed safely enough. Erithain and Gilraen were enthralled by the Elves and spent much time riding even with them or talking by campfire. Elladan and Elrohir proved to be merry companions and it was found that Glorfindel, while at first a bit more aloof than the other two Elves, could tell a ripping good yarn when he felt so moved. Dirhael had even begun to warm to the Elven presence and on more than one occasion was seen sharing a mug of mead with the golden-haired Elf. What they discussed Ivorwen felt it better not to ask. Her husband seemed content in this unexpected friendship and that was what really mattered. Ivorwen smiled looking at the two, dark and light heads bent together. It was late and the rest of the camp was asleep, and they were so engrossed in their conversation that they would not notice if she slipped away for a few moments of solitude removed from the encampment. They would reach the settlement tomorrow and Gilraen’s new life would begin in earnest and Ivorwen needed a few moments alone to sort through her feelings.
It was with a heavy heart that Ivorwen pondered the coming day. A portion of her wanted to tell Gilraen what she saw; what she knew and then hope it would dissuade her daughter from the match. But Ivorwen knew such a motive was selfish and doomed to failure. Gilraen was in love and would most likely marry Arathorn anyway but with the foreknowledge that would ruin her chances for happiness while Arathorn still lived. What was to happen must take place, but another part of her was angry that her beloved daughter was chosen to make the sacrifice of her own life’s happiness. Well did she know that life was very rarely fair. Haven’t I already had to bear the loss my oldest two sons? she thought bitterly. Her throat constricted as she thought of Elassan and Alarael. Elassan, the oldest, had deep blue eyes, a gift from his grandmother’s side of the family, dark hair and had the strong build of Dirhael. He was quiet and calm, so unlike his father in that respect but whenever he spoke it was always with good reason. Idle banter did not come easily and Alarael frequently teased him, just to bring him out of himself a little. Alarael had been the bright spark that lit the family up, two years younger and taller than his brother, he shared his colouring with Ivorwen and Gilraen. He had possessed a unique ability to get people talking and seeing common ground. He had been a natural peacemaker. Ironic that he should have died by the sword, Ivorwen thought as she wiped away a stray tear that had escaped her attempts to remain stoical. Alarael also had had a lightening quick mind and a wicked sense of humour that often tried his father’s patience, Ivorwen remembered, smiling. He quite often used his sense of humour to break through the ice of a situation and then bring together the two warring factions, whoever they were, and get them to see sense.
The day of the Orc attack in which they died was terrible, Ivorwen flinched under the remembered pain. It was not often she had the strength to think of that day, but tonight the thoughts seem to come unbidden. The way it was described to Ivorwen and Dirhael by one of the few warriors to return from the attack, was sparse. But Ivorwen was able to piece together the last moments of her two sons. Elassan had fallen in the attack. Having witnessed this, Alarael raced back into the thick of the fight in order to rescue his injured brother. After reaching Elassan and attempting to pull him onto his horse, an Orc impaled him upon one of their spear-like arrows, killing him instantly. Alarael had perished trying to save his brother. It was so like him, to think of others before himself. Elassan was brought back to the settlement, but his injuries and the knowledge that his brother had died trying to save him were too much and he slipped from the world a few fevered days later.
All attempts at stoicism abandoned, Ivorwen closed her eyes; the tears now flowing freely as she remembered her two bright boys. She felt as if she and Dirhael had already given so much. “Curse the Valar! For asking this last thing of us,” she whispered fervently. She sat still for many moments, the only telltale signs of life were the tears falling gently down her face and onto her gown and surcoat.
“Why do you cry, my lady.” Ivorwen spun around on the rock upon with she sat to see Elladan. Her eyes were wide with shock and fear. The dark-haired Elf quickly apologised, “Forgive me for startling you, my lady. But if I may be so bold as to ask again, Why do you cry?” Elladan could not explain what had brought him here. He had been asleep with his back next to his brother when he awoke suddenly and felt the urge to walk about for a bit. Then he saw her sitting on that rock, silent as pain in waves flowed from her unmoving form. At first he had thought to leave her to her unknown sorrows. His father had warned him many times about growing too close to mortals and getting too involved in their world. But he had either been blessed or cursed with a soft heart; he could never figure out which it was. What was more, he felt compelled to speak with her and discover her troubles.
Ivorwen continued to stare at him wordlessly. The tears having stopped briefly in her shock, her wide sorrowful eyes merely watched him as he stepped closer to her. He stood at her side and then dropped to one knee. “Tell me,” he said imploringly, his blue eyes dark with concern, “After all, there is a bond between us. I have sworn to do your bidding. I should know what it is that troubles you.” Looking into those mesmeric eyes Ivorwen found she was no proof against them. She needed to tell someone not so closely involved in the pain and this Dark-haired Elf was offering himself as confidante.
Chewing her lower lip pensively, she began. “Gilraen must marry Arathorn, but it can only lead to her ultimate unhappiness.”
“Do you doubt that Arathorn will treat her well?” Elladan said in the pause of her telling.
“Nay, Elladan. That is not it! Do you want to hear my story or not?” Ivorwen said, a flash of her usual spirit cutting through her sorrow.
“Pray pardon, my lady. Please continue.” Elladan hid an admiring smile at the lady’s spirit.
“Well then, get off your knees and join me on the rock where we may both be comfortable!” Ivorwen lightly scolded.
“Aye, my lady.” Elladan hid yet another admiring grin as he moved to do her bidding.
Upon seeing the Elf gracefully fold his legs under him, Ivorwen began her story again, “I shall start from the beginning. I am gifted with the Sight. Either gifted or cursed,” she muttered under her breath, “And on the morning that Arathorn came to make offer for Gilraen’s hand, I saw that she must marry him, and that this union would bring forth the child who would lead the Dunedain out of the wilderness of our existence and restore what was rightfully ours. It was the only reason the Thane accepted the match.”
Elladan looked up at this revelation, which had just slammed into his consciousness. He stared into the Dunedain woman’s eyes and said, “And this troubles you?” Again Ivorwen gave him that warning look, and he quickly said, “Again, my pardon, my lady,” and fell silent.
“You see, Master Elladan. That was not all of my vision. You were in it.” Elladan’s eyes grew amazed at this revelation, but chose to stay silent, “You and my daughter amid other horses were rushing towards Imladris, with my very young grandson. Tears were pouring down my daughter’s face and Arathorn was nowhere to be seen.” She looked away from the Elf and over the downs that stretched out in the middle distance. “Arathorn will die soon, I do not know when or how, and my daughter will be left unhappy and alone, living in a strange place.”
“Are you certain?” Elladan asked gently.
Ivorwen nodded, “My visions are never wrong.”
“And that is why you sought me out,” the Elf continued. Ivorwen nodded, still looking out over the vista before her.
“It was a mother’s desperation,” She quickly looked back at the Elf, slight panic showing on her face, “You will still hold to your promise, will you not?”
“More than ever, my lady.” He looked deeply into her eyes as he took both hands in his. “You have my solemn promise that my brother and I will always look over your daughter all the days of her life.” He then kissed the palms of her hands, “My brother and I will forever be at your service. For your many sacrifices made in the name of the light, I name you Elf-friend, Elvellon in my tongue. All you need do is call and we will come.”
Ivorwen looked deeply into his star-filled eyes and saw that he would never fail her. “Thank you.”
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